A total of 48 people suspected of being caused several fires were arrested this summer, marked by major forest fires, particularly in the south-west of the country, AFP learned from the gendarmerie on Friday.
In this provisional report, twelve people have already been sentenced to terms of up to two years in prison and “more than ten” have been placed in pre-trial detention, detailed the gendarmes.
Among them, “all social backgrounds are represented”, detailed to AFP Lieutenant-Colonel Marie-Laure Pezant, spokesperson for the national gendarmerie. “We found young people, minors, retirees, mostly men,” she added.
Some have “a weaker psychological profile, sometimes mental disorders”, continued the officer, there are also “a few” firefighters but “it’s not the majority”.
65,000 hectares of forest
Due to its location in rural areas, the gendarmerie was seized of the overwhelming majority of investigations (43 files were entrusted to it) concerning major forest fires, with the notable exception of that concerning the Teste-de-Buch fire (Gironde) entrusted to the police.
“At the height of summer, on August 13, we had up to 500 gendarmes deployed on 18 fires,” said Ms. Pezant.
The Gironde, which is home to part of the largest softwood forest in Europe, was particularly affected with 30,000 hectares going up in smoke, including more than 21,000 for the Landiras sector alone.
During the summer, up to 10,000 French firefighters per day were mobilized by the fires, which have already ravaged more than 65,000 hectares of forest, 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).
According to the National Forestry Office (ONF), nine out of ten fires are of human origin and three out of ten, on average, are intentional.