Man arrested in police investigation into wildfire raging in France

LA TESTE-DE-BUCH, France – French investigators probing suspicions of deliberately lighting a raging fire in the southwest of the country have arrested a man for questioning, as firefighters and water bombers continue fight against the raging fire on Tuesday.

Two massive fires burning arid pine forests in the Gironde region have forced tens of thousands of people from their homes and vacation spots since they broke out on July 12.

One of the fires raging south of Bordeaux is suspected to have been started intentionally. The Bordeaux prosecutor’s office said a motorist told investigators he saw a vehicle speeding from where the fire started on July 12. The driver pulled over to the side of the road. and tried to extinguish the fire but failed. Criminal investigators later found evidence pointing to possible arson, it said.

The prosecutor’s office said in its statement that the man being questioned was taken into custody Monday afternoon. Investigations are continuing and witnesses are being heard, it said.

Water bombers and more than 2,000 firefighters are working around the clock to contain that blaze and another raging fire southwest of Bordeaux that investigators consider accidental. The fires have consumed 190 square kilometers (more than 70 square miles) of forest and vegetation, the Gironde government said.

Thick clouds of smoke and the risk of flames spreading to buildings forced the evacuation of more than 37,000 people, including 16,000, on Monday alone, the Gironde government said. A third, smaller fire broke out late Monday in the Medoc wine region north of Bordeaux, further taxing firefighting resources in the area.

The Gironde government said those evacuated on Monday included 74 residents of a retirement home. Animals were also evacuated from the zoo. Five campgrounds burst into flames in the Atlantic coast beach area southwest of Bordeaux, around the Arcachon sea basin known for its oysters and resorts.

But Tuesday’s weather forecasts offered some solace, with heatwave temperatures easing along the Atlantic coast and rain expected later in the day.


Leicester reported from Le Pecq, France.

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