‘Rogue’ firefighter is accused of starting series of wildfires in the south of France

‘Rogue’ firefighter is accused of starting series of wildfires in the south of France over three nights with a cigarette lighter because he was bored in his ‘oppressive family environment’

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A ‘rogue’ firefighter has been accused of starting a series of wildfires in the south of France because he was bored in his ‘oppressive family environment’.

The volunteer, 37, from the Herault region, was arrested and placed in police custody on July 27.

The Montpellier public prosecutor said in a statement on Thursday that the man had admitted starting fires with a lighter on May 26, July 21 and the night of July 26-27.

Fabrice Belargent said: ‘Asked about his motive, he declared that he had done this in order to provoke an intervention by the fire brigade to save him from an oppressive family environment and because of the excitement these interventions caused him.

‘Adrenaline he called it – these are his own words. He also said he had a need for social recognition.’

This aerial view taken on July 29 shows smoke billowing above the trees after wildfires damaged the forest near Landiras, southwestern France

This aerial view taken on July 29 shows smoke billowing above the trees after wildfires damaged the forest near Landiras, southwestern France

The man has been a forestry engineer for 20 years and is a municipal councillor in Saint-Jean-de-la-Blaquière.

He was remanded in custody and faces charges of ‘destruction of forests, moors, scrubland or plantations belonging to others under conditions likely to expose people to physical harm’. 

If found guilty, he faces up to 15 years in prison and a €150,000 (£125,000) fine. 

Marie Bar, his lawyer, told BFM TV: ‘He apologised to the … firemen who he works with as he calls them his big family. This is someone who is very devoted to his work.

Stock picture of firefighter as he attempts to extinguish a ground fire in Landiras, in the Gironde region, France. He is not connected to the firefighter who has been arrested

Stock picture of firefighter as he attempts to extinguish a ground fire in Landiras, in the Gironde region, France. He is not connected to the firefighter who has been arrested

‘He finds it hard to explain. In a way he is relieved to have been arrested. He explains it as an addiction.’ 

On Wednesday, a wildfire spread along the Ardeche river in the southwest of France covering 750 hectares in one day.

Two factories in the small town of Lavilledieu were evacuated as well as an animal refuge and camping sites. The village of Vogue is currently being evacuated.

‘The fire broke out between 8.30 and 8.45 and has progressed very very fast due to strong wind,’ the mayor of Lavilledieu, Gerard Saucles, told BFM TV.

Earlier this month, wildfires burnt through more than 20,000 hectares in the southwestern region of Gironde as France and the rest of Europe experienced record-high temperatures.

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