A French fireman was arrested on suspicion of being a serial fire starter in a twisted bid for an adrenalin fix.
The volunteer first responder, who hails from the south of France, is accused of kickstarting a series of wildfires in the Herault region, not far from the city of Montpellier.
Earlier this month, Europe faced its most extreme heatwave to date, with temperatures reaching unprecedented highs of 105 degrees.
About 14,000 people were evacuated from France’s Gironde region as more than 1,200 firefighters battled to bring the flames under control after a wildfire ravaged parts of Europe.
Now, officials are investigating whether the 30-something firefighter — dubbed “pyromaniac fireman” by local news outlets — was responsible for July’s blaze.
The man had admitted kickstarting infernos with a lighter on May 26, July 21, and most recently, on July 26 and July 27, Montpellier prosecutor Fabrice Belargent, told the Agence France-Presse.
“Asked about his motive, he declared that he had done this in order to provoke an intervention by the fire brigade to save him from an oppressive family environment and because of the excitement these interventions caused him,” Belargent said in a statement.
“Adrenaline he called it — these are his own words. He also said he had a need for social recognition,” he added.
The man worked as a forest engineer for 20 years and is a municipal councilor.
He is charged with the “destruction of forests, moors, scrubland or plantations belonging to others under conditions likely to expose people to physical harm.”
Speaking to BFMTV, his lawyer, Marie Bar said: “He apologized to the firemen who he works with as he calls them his big family. This is someone who is very devoted to his work.
“He finds it hard to explain. In a way he is relieved to have been arrested. He explains it as an addiction.”
Meanwhile, former fire brigade colonel Ludovic Pinganaud told the outlet, “It’s disgusting to have within the organization this type of individual.”
If convicted, the alleged firebug faces up to 15 years in jail, as well as a hefty $153,000 fine.