The first statements from the local authorities foreshadowed it, it is now confirmed. The fire which has ravaged 165 hectares of forest and vegetation in Anglet (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) since Thursday is not of natural origin, indicates the Bayonne prosecutor's office on Saturday.
An investigation for "destruction by fire" was opened Friday. Investigations have already made it possible to determine a single fire starting area, on the outskirts of the Orok Bat rugby stadium, in a sports complex backing onto the Chiberta forest.
A "human action"
"There was no lightning or electric wire that would have caused a spark, so it is a human action," said Caroline Parizel, deputy prosecutor of Bayonne on Saturday.
The first technical findings were carried out in the 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).
"Difficult" to determine if the origin is criminal
Warning: this does not mean that the outbreak of the fire was intentional and criminal. This "means that there was an intervention of the man, but it can be a cigarette butt, or a shard of a bottle which would have had a magnifying effect", detailed the magistrate.
The investigation must therefore now determine how the fire started and whether there was a deliberate ignition or not. "There were samples taken to see if we can determine the cause," said Caroline Parizel. "But 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 explained.
VIDEO. Fire in Anglet: "We were surrounded by fire, it was a nightmare"
“Even in the absence of an intentional character”, the destruction of forest can constitute an offense punishable by 5 to 7 years of imprisonment, she also recalled.
Fire completely under control this Saturday
All the samples necessary for the investigation were carried out on Saturday morning, and the conclusions of the experts are expected in the coming days, according to the prosecution. About twenty people went through the hospital for poisoning problems due to the smoke, but not serious.
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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.