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26 people questioned by French police over starting fires this summer

One high profile case involves a volunteer firefighter from Hérault who now faces a lengthy prison sentence

Some 20 odd people have been questioned by French police this summer about intentionally starting fires Pic: hadescom / Shutterstock

French police have questioned 26 different people suspected of starting wildfires since the beginning of the summer, according to newspaper Le Figaro. 

Another French media outlet, BFMTV, puts this number at 25. 

Of these people, four have already been convicted while another six have been remanded in custody. 

Some of the arrests have become high profile and shared in the media. One concerns a 44-year-old man from Ardèche who has admitted to being responsible for a number of fires in the department. 

Another is a former volunteer firefighter who also took responsibility for several outbreaks in Hérault.

This man, who is in his 30s, risks a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a hefty fine of up to €150,000, Franceinfo reported

Read more: Volunteer firefighter arrested for Hérault fires

France’s Ministry of Interior has said that the 20-odd arrests were down to deploying “significant human and technological resources”.

In addition to the local gendarmerie, 320 soldiers have been deployed in recent weeks to deal with the outbreaks. Crime scene investigators have also aided in trying to uncover the origins of various fires. 

Read more: France’s wildfires rage on as minister warns of more to come

France’s summer of wildfires

France has faced a series of massive wildfires this summer, caused by soaring temperatures, droughts and the irresponsible or illegal behaviour of individuals.

Read more: MAP: How to see where wildfires are in France in real time

Tens of thousands of people have had to be evacuated from their homes due to the blazes at various times this summer. 

Over 61,000 hectares of forest have burned in the country since the beginning of the year, figures from the European Union's Earth observation programme Copernicus show

This is the equivalent to 0.11% of France’s territory. The average yearly percentage between 2006 and 2021 was 0.02%. 

One of the biggest fires in the country that raged in Gironde and that ravaged 7,400 hectares over the past week has now been classified as “contained”. 

The fire spread in the forest around Landiras, just south of Bordeaux, forcing around 8,000 people to flee their homes. 

Authorities have dismissed the possibility that this fire was started on purpose, with the local prosecutor’s office saying, “no element leads us to believe there was criminal involvement”. 

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