On March 1, the Public Prosecutor of Castelo Branco accused a 46-year-old former Proença-a-Nova firefighter of having committed 17 forest fire crimes last summer.
The largest of the fires, started on 7 September, burned 950,000 square meters (equivalent to almost 100 football fields) and caused losses estimated at more than 2.6 million euros.
The defendant had served in the Proença-a-Nova Volunteer Firefighters for 14 years, leaving the corporation only in December 2015. In the indictment, he did not disclose any professional occupation or motivation for the crimes.
The first fire investigated and attributed to the suspect by the Center’s Judicial Police occurred on July 17, along the Amoreira municipal road in the municipality of Proença-a-Nova. The arsonist went by car and, as always, set the fire with a device consisting of incense stick surrounded by matches pasted on with glue. It burned an area of 1800 square meters, with bush, pines, holm oaks, a chestnut tree and a fig tree.
The suspect acted in Proença and Serta, almost always in the afternoon. Only on July 25, in Serta, he set five fires. Judging by the indictment, he then went through a “certain calm period in the first three weeks of August, but by the end of that month he restarted his activities. These only ended on September 12, during which he started fires with great frequency, which mobilized many resources to combat these.
The most serious fire began in the street of the Valley of the Frade, Proença-a-Nova. The man was already there on August 21, but without the effect achieved on September 7. On this day, the fire progressed uncontrollably and burned thousands of pines, eucalyptus, cork oaks, holm oaks, olive trees, fruit trees and vegetable gardens, as well as implements, cattle fences and two tractors.
The suspect is under house arrest, and the attorney-in-fact of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Castelo Branco has proposed that the measure of coercion remain in force because of the danger of continued criminal activity on the part of the accused.