Two young men have been arrested in connection with the recent forest fires in Monchique. One is a 19-year-old ex-bombeiro from the Monchique Volunteer Corp, who has allegedly confessed to the Polícia Judiciária that he started 16 fires in the area. The other suspect is his close friend, a 23-year-old with special needs, also from Monchique.
According to GNR reports, the arrests came after a police officer who was patrolling the forest area caught the 23-year-old acting suspiciously early one morning near Almarjão. After being questioned by the officer, he quickly confessed that he had been about to start a fire. He also apparently claimed that he had been responsible for starting over 20 fires in the concelho and said he hadn’t started them alone. The GNR officer then ordered him to phone his accomplice and ask him to meet in Almarjão, without alerting him to the fact that an officer was also there. Shortly after the phone call, the 19-year-old arrived and both men were immediately arrested. Monchique Bombeiros Comandante, Manuel Carvalho, was shocked to discover that an ex-member of his Corp could have performed such dreadful crimes. “I would never have thought that anyone could do something like this,” Carvalho said.
Apparently, the 19-year-old, the son of a veteran bombeiro from Monchique, was sacked from the bombeiro squad over a year ago, following an argument with the Comandante. However, for Carvalho, that is not an excuse. “He didn’t take it out on the bombeiros, he took it out on all of Monchique’s residents, who lost everything they had in the fires,” he exclaimed.
The 19-year-old is currently under house arrest and is forbidden to contact the other suspect. The 23-year-old, however, was set free, because he has been diagnosed with a mental illness. He has been ordered to appear twice a day at the GNR police station and is not allowed to leave the area where he lives, or contact the other suspect.
Monchique Câmara President, Carlos Tuta, has refused to give out any statements regarding the incidents, claiming he has been told “to say nothing”. However, there are claims that Tuta believes that more individuals are involved in starting the Monchique forest fires. Carvalho, meanwhile, is not sure what to believe. “I don’t understand the reason, so I can’t imagine anyone else wanting to be involved in this,” he said. He also revealed that, although he was surprised to hear that one of his ex-bombeiros had been arrested in connection with the fires, he had his suspicions three weeks before the arrests. “It had to be someone who knew my fire-fighting strategy,” he explained.
Teenage fire starter
In a separate development, a spokesman from Portimão’s Polícia Judiciária has announced that officers have identified a 14-year-old boy who is suspected of starting several fires in the Algoz area. The Loulé based teenager, who has already been to court, is accused of starting the fires between June and August of this year for unknown reasons. An inquiry released by authorities suggests that, between January and September, a total of 49 people were arrested in Portugal in connection of deliberately starting forest fires.