Former firefighter admits to starting 16 forest fires in three months

A former firefighter who has been described by shocked colleagues as “a normal person” has admitted to starting 16 forest fires in three months which destroyed over a million square metres of trees and vegetation.

According to reports, the 46-year-old warehouseman’s excuse was that he was in a “state of permanent anxiety”.

This condition caused him to construct homemade incendiary devices which he would then hurl into the forest at isolated spots from his car, without stopping, writes Correio da Manhã.

In the last three months, his so-called affliction saw the equivalent of 100 football pitches of land burnt to a crisp and as many as five villages in the area of Proença-a-Nova threatened by advancing flames.

Trees destroyed by the man’s blazes included cork oaks, olives and pines, as well as eucalyptus.

CM adds that sometimes the man would start “four or five fires in an afternoon”.

Contrary to the habitual profile of an arsonist, he is not an alcoholic, says the paper. In fact he only stopped working as a volunteer firefighter last year, and had previously been a fireman for 14 years.

The man’s former commander at Proença-a-Nova fire station has described the arsonist as “a normal person”.

“He never did anything that would have made us imagine this situation”, Tiago Marques told CM.

PJ investigators are apparently unimpressed by the excuse of ‘permanent anxiety’ and “believe the former fireman shows a strong impulse for starting fires”, says CM.

He is one of 72 people arrested on suspicions of arson this year – a number which the paper says is considerably higher than tallys from previous years.

For now, the man has appeared in court and is awaiting trial on bail.