News24

French police quiz boy over forest fire

2012-08-27 15:01

Marseille - Seven hundred firefighters battled a massive forest fire on Monday in southern France as police interrogated a 15-year-old boy suspected of starting the blaze.

"The blaze is under control but still active," the top government official in the region, Hugues Parant, said.

The fire began early on Sunday outside the village of Orgon, near the city of Avignon, and was quickly spread by the mistral, the strong wind that frequently barrels down the Rhone valley.

By Monday it had burnt around 400ha of vegetation in the popular tourist region and destroyed two houses but had not caused any casualties, officials said.

Police detained a teenage boy on Sunday and were still questioning him on Monday about his possible role in starting the fire, said prosecutor Christian Pasta.

Pasta would not say whether the boy was the same who had been placed under investigation several times over the summer in connection with about 15 blazes that police suspect were started deliberately.

A forest fire devastated hundreds of hectares of pine forest close to one of France's best surfing beaches on the Atlantic coast in mid-August.