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 the Herault. “We have very varied profiles, young people, minors, retirees, all social backgrounds are represented with a majority of men”, explained to AFP the lieutenant-colonel Marie-Laure Pezant, spokesperson for the national gendarmerie. Some have “a weaker psychological profile, sometimes mental disorders”. The 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. Each outbreak of fire (90% of which are caused by man and 30% are voluntary, according to the National Forestry Office) is the subject of a judicial investigation. Due to its location in a rural area, the gendarmerie received the overwhelming majority of 43 files concerning the forest fires of summer 2022, with the notable exception of that of the 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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