Retired Brit expat arrested for starting forest fires in Spain

Published:  12 Jun at 6 PM
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A retired British expat has been arrested and accused of starting last summer’s forest fires in Spain’s protected Puerto Mayor area.

The unnamed 78-year old is believed to spend the summer months living in the region before returning to the UK for the winter, and was arrested after being discovered close by the origins of the fires holding a five-litre jerry can containing petrol, matches and several cigarette lighters. He is due to appear in court before a judge who will decide whether to release him on bail or hold him in custody pending a trial.

A Guardia Civil officer confirmed the man’s arrest on suspicion of starting four forest fires, adding that the investigation had started last July after the original fire. Three more fires were started deliberately on August 25 and September 2 and 27, with the largest blaze destroying at least 600 square metres of protected forest land. The number of forest fires in Spain is accelerating at a high rate, with experts believing global warming is to blame.

In 2017, over 800 blazes broke out during the summer months, destroying 105,000 hectares of forest in Valencia, Donana, Galicia and Asturias provinces and causing thousands to be evacuated whilst firefighters tackled the flames. One monster conflagration in Huelva last June saw 1,500 homeowners forced to flee due to high winds spreading the flames, with the blaze treated as a level 1 maximum threat to life and property.

According to climate change specialists, increasingly high summer temperatures have partly been responsible for the increases, although the majority of fires are either deliberately or accidentally started by humans. For example, the Huelva wildfire is believed by firefighters to have been the result of arson. Spain is now top of the EU member states list of lost forested areas caused by wildfires, ahead of Portugal, Italy, France and Greece.
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