The fire which devastated 165 hectares of forest and vegetation Thursday in a forest in the heart of town in Anglet, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, is “of human origin”, according to the first findings of investigation, the Bayonne prosecutor’s office said on Saturday.
“There was no lightning or electric wire that would have caused a spark,” Caroline Parizel, deputy prosecutor of Bayonne, told AFP.
“It is therefore a human action, which means that there was a human intervention, but it could be a cigarette butt, or a shard of a bottle which would have had a magnifying effect”, continues t -she.
The first technical findings were carried out this 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 Forestry Office and SDIS (Departmental Fire and Rescue Service).
Find the “trigger”
The investigation has already made it possible to determine a single fire starting zone, on the outskirts of the Orok Bat rugby stadium, in a sports complex backing onto the Chiberta forest. The investigation must now determine whether or not the fire is of criminal origin, with a deliberate ignition.
“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.
An investigation for “destruction by fire” was opened this Friday by the Bayonne prosecutor’s office, who recalled that “even in the absence of intentional character”, the destruction of forest can constitute an offense punishable by 5 to 7 years of imprisonment.
All the samples necessary for the investigation were taken on Saturday morning, and the conclusions of the experts are expected in the coming days, according to the prosecution.
165 hectares destroyed
The spectacular fire in the Chiberta forest, a 270-hectare pine forest area in the heart of the town in Anglet, destroyed 165 hectares of vegetation, and five houses in adjacent housing estates, without causing any casualties. About twenty people went through the hospital for poisoning problems due to the smoke, but not serious.
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.