ARSON SUSPECT NABBED
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