Suspicion of pyromania hangs over summer fires

The virulent resumption of the megafire in Gironde, after a first intense episode in July, revives the hypothesis of a malicious act. The Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, suggested it on Thursday August 11, declaring that there was “of great suspicion” that these resumptions of fire are “the act of arsonists”. He wants proof of this “a few hundred meters apart” between fire starts. A phenomenon considered by specialists as a convincing sign of arson.

However, these remarks are not based on the investigations carried out, since the agents of the departmental unit for research into the causes and circumstances of the forest fires have not yet been able to start working for security reasons.

Read also: Fires in France: who are the arsonists and why do they do this?

These working groups, made up of gendarmes, police officers and forest rangers, analyze the burnt sites as the forensic police do on a crime scene. They seek to delimit a perimeter, as small as possible, on which a fire started and study all the available clues: cigarette butts, traces of fuel, prints on a possible lighter and testimonies. Reports from the cell are forwarded to prosecutors. Two cases of arson, in Ardèche and Hérault, were particularly publicized in July, but they are far from being the only ones.

Convictions every week

The exceptional drought and heat wave alone do not explain the multiplication of outbreaks in Gironde, Doubs, Hérault or even Finistère. Every week, convictions are pronounced for arson or not. Thus, on July 26, three young men in their twenties were immediately sentenced to seventy hours of community service and a five-month suspended prison sentence by the Rennes court for having put the fire in a field in Saint-Aubin-d’Aubigné (Ille-et-Vilaine), quickly circumscribed by firefighters.

Worse. On July 29, a 44-year-old man, who admitted to being the author of several fire starts in Lussas, near Aubenas (Ardèche), having ravaged 1,200 hectares, was indicted and placed in pre-trial detention. Presenting a “significant alcohol content” at the time of his arrest, he had confessed after being “confronted with numerous testimonies” establishing its presence on the fire starts. He is being prosecuted for arson, “crime punishable by a sentence of fifteen years’ imprisonment”said the prosecutor of Privas, Cécile Deprade.

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