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French fireman accused of being serial fire starter

French authorities on Friday held a fireman from the south of France accused of being behind a series of wildfires in the region which he says he started in a quest for adrenaline.

aerial view shows french firefighters monitoring wildfire situation in southwestern france
This aerial view taken on July 29, 2022 shows firefighters monitoring situation in a burnt forest area after wildfires near Landiras, southwestern France. - The Gironde prefecture said the two fires, which have destroyed 20,800 hectares of forest in Gironde over the past 10 days and led to the evacuation of more than 36,000 people, are fixed but that firefighters still need to remain on site to monitor for possible recurrences. (Photo by Thibaud MORITZ / AFP)

The man, a volunteer fireman from the Herault region, was arrested on Wednesday, regional prosectors said.

The case of the man dubbed in media as the “pyromaniac fireman” has sparked a keen interest in France, which was shocked by a swathe of wildfires in last week’s heatwave that forced the evacuation of thousands of people.

Montpellier prosecutor Fabrice Belargent said in a statement that the man had admitted starting fires with a lighter on May 26, July 21 and, most recently, over the night of July 26-27.

“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,” said Belargent.
 
“Adrenaline he called it — these are his own words,” said the prosecutor.
 
“He also said he had a need for social recognition.”
 
Adding to the irony, the full-time job of the man, who has not been identified by name but is in his 30s, was a forester, with preventing fires one of his primary responsibilities.
 
His lawyer Marie Bar told BFM TV that under questioning the man had “expressed very strong regret and above all a strong sentiment of shame”.
 
She confirmed he had been remanded in custody by an investigating judge ahead of trial.
 
“He apologised to the…. firemen who he works with as he calls them his big family. This is someone who is very devoted to his work,” she said.
 
“He finds it hard to explain. In a way he is relieved to have been arrested. He explains it as an addiction.”
 
If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and a 150,000 euro ($153,000) fine.
 
“It’s disgusting to have this type of individual within the organisation,” former fire brigade colonel Ludovic Pinganaud told BFM, adding that out of 200,000 volunteer fireman in France there were just “some sick people” addicted to fires.
 
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FOOD & DRINK

Moules-frites in danger: Spider crabs wreak havoc on French mussel population

Warming sea temperatures are bringing more spider crabs to France's coastline, which could spell disaster for the French mussel industry.

Moules-frites in danger: Spider crabs wreak havoc on French mussel population

You may not be able to see it from land, but underwater, an invasive species of spider crabs are ravaging the mussel population on the Western coast of France.

In Normandy and Brittany, mussel farmers are struggling to control the expanding spider crab population – which normally migrates onward, but has stayed put on France’s coasts.

Experts believe the crabs, who feast on mussels and all manner of shellfish, have not continued in their migration due to warming water temperatures, as a result of the climate crisis.

This has left French mussel farmers worried that if the crab population is not controlled, then mussel production could end in the region within a decade. 

Some mussel farmers, like David Dubosco, have lost a significant amount of mussels in just the last year. Dubosco told TF1 that in 2022 he lost at least 150 tonnes.

(You can listen to The Local France team discuss the future of moules-frites in our new podcast episode below. Just press play or download it here for later.)

Dubosco is not alone in his experience. According to reporting by TF1, production across the board will be lower this year 2022, which means that the number of mussels imported from other countries will likely increase, a decision that will not be popular with French consumers who prefer homegrown mussels to make the classic moules-frites.

The proliferation of the spider crabs has been an ongoing problem for the last six years, but due to warming waters, more and more have stayed in French waters.

The crabs do not have many predators besides humans – as they are edible, but the supply has begun to outweigh demand. Additionally, the crabs have grown so big that traditional cages used to trap them are no longer effective, according to Actu France.

On September 21st, over 80 mussel producers staged a demonstration in front of the Manche préfecture in Saint-Lô to demand further measures against this invasive species.

“We have seen the proliferation of spider crabs and our alerts have gone unheeded by the administrative authorities. The species comes to feed on our stocks,” said Vincent Godefroy, head of the “Group of mussel farmers on bouchot” (Groupement des mytiliculteurs sur bouchot) to Actu France. 

In response, the Manche prefecture met with six representatives from the group, eventually publishing a a statement saying it would allow “for the experimentation of new measures” to combat the crabs, which would include dragging them out to sea.

Additionally, government actors and mussel farmers will work together this autumn to conduct a study on the economic value of spider crabs with goals of building up a new industry. The assessment will be made in November.

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