48 people suspected of being at the origin of fires were arrested this summer, announces the national gendarmerie

A total of 48 people suspected of being the cause of several fires were arrested during the summer of 2022, the national gendarmerie announced to AFP on Friday, September 23. The season was marked by major forest fires, particularly in the South-West, with a record number of areas burned.

According to this provisional report from the gendarmerie, twelve people have already been sentenced to terms of up to two years in prison. The heaviest was pronounced against a young man arrested in August and found guilty of a series of fires in Gironde. “More than a dozen” people were placed in pre-trial detention during the investigation, according to the gendarmerie. Among them are a 44-year-old man, indicted after confessing to having caused several fires that ravaged 1,200 hectares in Ardèche, and a 33-year-old former volunteer firefighter, who will be tried in Béziers for two fires in Hérault.

“We have very varied profiles, young people, minors, retirees, all social backgrounds are represented with a majority of men”, Lieutenant-Colonel Marie-Laure Pezant, spokesperson for the national gendarmerie, told AFP. Some have “a weaker psychological profile, sometimes mental disorders”. Lhe medical expertise carried out during the investigations must make it possible to distinguish arsonists, who set fire to satisfy an impulse, from arsonists, whose act responds to a specific motive.

Of all fire starts, 90% are caused by humans and 30% are voluntary, according to the National Forestry Office. Each is under investigation. Because of its location in rural areasthe gendarmerie was seized of the overwhelming majority of files concerning the forest fires of summer 2022, with the notable exception of that of the fire in La Teste-de-Buch (Gironde), entrusted to the police.

The fires have already ravaged more than 65,000 hectares of forest in 2022, a record at this stage of the year since the start of the census of satellite data in 2006, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (Effis) . The Gironde was particularly affected, with 30,000 hectares going up in smoke, including more than 21,000 for the Landiras sector alone.

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