Adrenaline-seeking firefighter started French wildfires, say prosecutors

A firefighter from the south of France is responsible for a series of wildfires in the region which he started in a quest for adrenaline, French authorities have said.

The man, a volunteer firefighter from the Herault region, was arrested on Wednesday, regional prosecutors said.

The case of the man called the “pyromaniac fireman” by French media has sparked a keen interest in France, which was shocked by a swathe of wildfires during last week’s heatwave that forced the evacuation of thousands of people.

Montpellier prosecutor Fabrice Belargent said in a statement that the man had admitted starting fires with a lighter on 26 May, 21 July and most recently over the night of 26-27 July.

“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,” said Belargent.

“Adrenaline he called it – these are his own words,” said the prosecutor. “He also said he had a need for social recognition.”

The man, who is in his 30s but has not been named, works full-time as a forester, with preventing fires one of his primary responsibilities.

His lawyer, Marie Bar, told BFM TV that under questioning the man had “expressed very strong regret and above all a strong sentiment of shame”.

She confirmed he had been remanded in custody by an investigating judge ahead of trial.

“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,” she said.

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

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

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“It’s disgusting to have within the organisation this type of individual,” former fire brigade colonel Ludovic Pinganaud told BFM, adding that out of 200,000 volunteer firefighters in France there were just “some sick people” addicted to fires.

The Guardian