Man admits to starting 14 forest fires

(Chibougamau) A Quebecer admitted to starting a series of fires that burned hundreds of hectares of forest last year and forced hundreds of people from their homes.

Brian Paré, 38, pleaded guilty Monday to 13 counts of arson and one count of arson with disregard for human life at the courthouse in Chibougamau, Quebec.

Prosecutor Marie-Philippe Charron told the court that two of the fires started by Mr. Paré forced the evacuation, on May 31, of about 500 residences in Chapais, a small community located about 425 kilometers northwest of Quebec.

City residents were only able to return home on June 3, Ms.e Charron during an agreed statement of facts. The Lake Cavan fire is by far the largest started by Mr Paré, burning almost 873 hectares of forest.

It is also one of the first in a series of five fires lit by Mr. Paré between May 31 and May 1er June – this wave of fires began three days after the Quebec government banned open fires in or around forests due to dry weather.

Five fires in a short time in the same area have aroused suspicion. What’s more, authorities observed that some fires had no possible natural cause, Ms.e Wheelwright.

According to the prosecutor, the police spoke to Mr. Paré for the first time on June 2. He had been seen in the area where a fire had broken out and was considered a witness.

Posts on Brian Paré’s Facebook page – where he regularly posted about wildfires, including claims that the fires were deliberately set by the government to mislead people into believing in climate change – were causing also part of the evidence that led the police to him.

Mr. Paré’s ideology and behavior – including these Facebook messages – match the profile of the suspect established by police specialists.

Me Charron said police obtained a warrant to install a tracking device on Mr. Paré’s vehicle. 1er and on September 5, she said, that tracking device showed him to be in locations where other fires had been set.

Mr. Paré was arrested on September 7. At that time, when he was questioned, he admitted to starting nine of the fires, the prosecutor said.

Me Charron said the defendant claimed, as his main motivation, that he was conducting tests to see if the forest was actually dry or not.

Mr. Paré, who has been detained since his arrest, said little during the hearing, contenting himself with answering “yes” to a series of questions from the judge.

A pre-sentence report was requested. He will have to take into account both Mr. Paré’s mental state and the risk he represents for public safety. The report will be presented by April 22.

Two other charges – breaking and entering and public nuisance – were conditionally suspended, Ms.e Wheelwright.

More than 700 forest fires burned more than 4.5 million hectares of Quebec forest last summer, according to SOPFEU, which specified that 99.9% of the fires were started by lightning.

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