The fire which devastated 165 hectares of forest and vegetation Thursday in a forest in the heart of town in Anglet (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) is "of human origin" according to the first findings of the investigation opened Friday for "destruction by fire "by the Bayonne prosecutor's office.
An offense punishable by 5 to 7 years imprisonment
According to Caroline Parizel, the deputy prosecutor of Bayonne, "there was no lightning or electric wire which would have caused a spark, it is therefore a human action, which means that there was an intervention of man ". Human action does not necessarily mean arson, "it could be a cigarette butt, or a shard of a bottle that would have had a magnifying effect," she explains. The investigation has already made it possible to determine a single fire starting area, near the Orok Bat rugby stadium, in a sports complex backing onto the Chiberta forest, a 270 hectare pine forest area.
The first technical findings were carried out on Saturday morning by investigators from the Bayonne judicial police, in charge of the investigation, assisted by two forensic teams from Toulouse and Marseille, "specialists in forest fires", from the National Forest Office and SDIS (Departmental Fire and Rescue Service). The investigation must now determine whether the firing was intentional or not. "Even in the absence of intention", the destruction of forest can constitute an offense punishable by 5 to 7 years of imprisonment, as recalled by the prosecution.
Conclusions expected in the coming days
"There were samples taken to see if we can determine the cause," said Caroline Parizel. "It is the most difficult according to the experts", because to determine the voluntary and therefore criminal origin, it is necessary "to find the trigger," she explains. The conclusions of the experts are expected in the coming days, according to the prosecution.
Saturday morning, the fire was completely under control, but about twenty firefighters remained on site for "surgical work" on the last embers and fumaroles, in order to avoid any new outbreak of fire. "We will still be there all day and we also expect people next night," said Frédéric Tournaye, deputy director of SDIS. Five houses in adjacent housing estates have been uninhabitable since the fire, which did not claim any victims. About twenty people went through the hospital for smoke poisoning problems, but not serious.