“A stupid act”… Three young people tried to start a fire

They weren’t very talkative. At the head of the criminal court in Rennes, three young people in their twenties were put on trial for causing a fire to start in Saint-Aubin d’Aubigné (Ille-et-Vilaine) on 21 July. A minor incident that only removed a few hundred square meters of grass in a field and apple trees in an orchard owned by the municipality. But in a burning context where thousands of hectares have already burned in the Gironde and in the Monts d’Arrée, this voluntary fire-starting raises questions. But if France hoped to get explanations from the mouths of the arsonists, it must return. Because in courtroom number 105 we didn’t learn much.

The three children sit in a field overlooking a pond in Saint-Aubin-d’Aubigné. It’s past 9:00 p.m. and the three young men smoke a few cigarettes, also a joint, while watching the sunset. Some swing their butts in the dry grass. “I saw smoke, I put it out quickly with my hand”, assures the youngest and least talkative of the three. The “real” fire would have started when one of the three children was playing with his lighter. “It was like a stress reliever. I lit a few twigs and saw that it took. I let it burn a little before I stomp. When I left, there was no trace of smoke or sparks,” says the young man, who specifies , that he put out the fire with tonic, which he had in his bag to mix with gin.

Faced with the evasive answers of the three defendants, the president is irritated. “I wasn’t there, it’s up to you to tell me”. The respondents are not very talkative and even less precise in their statements. But witnesses claim to have seen them light two fires in two different places in this field, and they even believe they heard laughter before they saw the three young people fleeing. “I only saw the existence of the fire when I went and met a witness who showed me the fumes,” replies the one playing with his lighter. “But witness you. And why didn’t you call the fire department?”. One had no more battery, the other no more credit. “It was a stupid move, especially considering the weather conditions,” admits one of them. Everyone will be picked up on the spot by the gendarmes.

“It could have been dramatic”

In the context of the extreme drought that France is going through, this “stupid act” raises questions. Especially since one of them wants to film the scene with his phone. “The apple trees that burned are seven meters from a forest. Fortunately there was no wind, it could have been dramatic,” explains the mayor of Saint-Aubin, who filed a civil lawsuit. “There is a limited effort. We are not in the same situation as in the Gironde or in the Monts d’Arrée”, recalls the judge, who calls on the defendants to “let go of their statements”. They do not really want to do that and will give “difficult” explanations as described by the prosecutor. The latter invokes the witness statements to request entry into the sentencing. “When we set fire to twigs, we are engaging in arson, regardless of the consequences,” assures the judge, who overwhelms the young man , who was “playing” with his lighter. “I can only think of the context. It’s Thursday, July 21, we’ve just had a heat wave, and we can’t find anything better to do than throw cigarette butts in a field that already burned by the sun.

The three children all have a small record, especially for drug use and driving is allowed. The youngest, aged 20, has already spent a few months in prison for driving without a license and under the influence of euphoric drugs. All of them had a turbulent childhood due to a complicated parental situation. Two are friends. The third is an acquaintance they met by chance that night. The court upheld the “cooperation” of the three defendants and sentenced the young man with the lighter to five months’ probation and 70 hours of community service. As for the other two defendants, they are sentenced to the same 70 hours of TIG to be completed within eighteen months.

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