Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - Front Page - By Alex Watkins awatkins@cb­

A MAN sus­pected of start­ing the se­ries of fires in the Guard­mar del Se­gura pine for­est has been ar­rested, an­nounced mayor José Luis Sáez on Tues­day.

A to­tal of eight blazes have been recorded in the area since Septem­ber 25.

Guardia Civil sources told state news agency EFE that the sus­pect is home­less and aged around 50.

The mayor said the sus­pect was first de­tained on Fri­day but re­leased on Mon­day af­ter­noon af­ter 72 hours, which is the long­est any­one can be kept in cus­tody with­out clear ev­i­dence.

An­other fire was started on Tues­day morn­ing, ac­cord­ing to Sr Sáez, which was ex­tin­guished within half an hour af­ter only burn­ing about four square me­tres.

He said the sus­pect was re­ar­rested on Tues­day af­ter­noon and taken to a health cen­tre, then to a shel­ter in Elche.

The court in­ves­ti­gat­ing the case now has to de­ter­mine whether there is enough ev­i­dence to keep him in cus­tody, is­sue a re­strain­ing or­der to keep him away from the for­est or even place him in psy­chi­atric care.

The sev­enth fire was last Fri­day at about 17.30 and af­fected about 400 square me­tres of land, in­clud­ing about 20 pine trees and five palms, re­ported the pro­vin­cial fire bri­gade.

It had been started in two places sep­a­rated by about 100 me­tres and was the fourth that week.

The fires have been started with branches that were piled up and set alight, some of which spread faster than oth­ers depend­ing on the pre­vail­ing wind.

On sev­eral oc­ca­sions planes and he­li­copters have had to be drafted into help fire fight­ers on the ground to put out the flames.

The ar­son at­tacks have caused great con­cern and anger among res­i­dents of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, which con­sid­ers the for­est to be its most pre­cious nat­u­ral space.

The wood­land was ac­tu­ally cre­ated ar­ti­fi­cially in the early 20th cen­tury by forestry en­gi­neer Fran­cisco Mira y Botella in or­der to pre­vent the ad­vanc­ing sand dunes from en­gulf­ing the town.

The fire which was set on Tues­day

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