December 4, 2022

French authorities on Friday detained a firefighter from the south of France accused of being behind a series of forest fires in the region, which he said he started in a quest for adrenaline.

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

The case of the man dubbed the “pyromaniac firefighter” in the media has sparked widespread interest in France, which was shocked by a series of wildfires in last week’s heat wave that forced the evacuation of thousands of people.

Montpellier’s prosecutor, Fabrice Belargent, said in a statement that the man admitted to setting fire with a lighter on May 26, July 21, and most recently on the night of July 26-27.

“Asked about his motive, he stated that he had done this to provoke an intervention by the fire service to rescue him from an oppressive family environment and because of the excitement these interventions caused him,” Belargent said.

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

To add to the irony, the man’s full-time job, who has not been identified by name but is in his thirties, was a forest ranger with fire prevention as one of his primary responsibilities.

His lawyer Marie Bar told BFM TV that during the interrogation the man expressed “very deep regret and above all a strong sense of shame”.

She confirmed that he had been remanded in custody by an investigating judge prior to the trial.

“He apologized to the… firefighters he works with, as he calls them his big family. This is someone who is very dedicated to his job,” she said.

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“He finds it hard to explain. In a way, he’s relieved that he’s been arrested. He explains it as an addiction.”

If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of 150,000 euros ($153,000).

“It’s disgusting to have this type of person in the organization,” former fire colonel Ludovic Pinganaud told BFM, adding that of the 200,000 volunteer firefighters in France, only “a few sick people” were addicted to fires.

(AFP)