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After the fire, the difficult investigative work of the experts of the gendarmerie

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An investigation cell, assisted by forty to sixty gendarmes depending on the day, roams the forest of Double, in the Dordogne, where around fifty firings have been recorded since the beginning of August. The latest took place on Wednesday September 21, near La Roche-Chalais, a town of 3,000 souls. The work of these investigators is little known. However, he contributed to the arrest of 48 people suspected of being linked to the fires which affected the territory this summer, from Drôme to Gironde via Haute-Vienne. Twelve of them have already been convicted. Their profile? Almost all men, guilty of negligence or psychologically unstable, “with a few minors and sometimes elderly individuals, with very diverse profiles”observes Lieutenant-Colonel Marie-Laure Pezant, one of the two spokespersons for the gendarmerie.

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To detect them even before they take action, patrols were organized throughout the summer, as in New Aquitaine, where fifteen reservists supervised by a judicial police officer ensured increased vigilance on certain forest massifs. , “near areas still spared but likely to be targeted”. But, on the ground, it is the work carried out by the 24 research units into the causes and circumstances of the fire that makes it possible to trace the origins of the disasters and, sometimes, to confuse the perpetrators. Real treasure hunts where, underlines Warrant Officer Marie Ray, assigned to one of these teams in the Var, “you have to know how to read the passage of fire”.

“Interpretation of clues”

Assisted by firefighters, agents from the French Office for Biodiversity or the departmental directorates of territories and the sea, the criminal investigation technicians trained in-house must interpret the coloring of the branches or their degree of petrification, the traces found on tree trunks. “All clues are open to interpretation, including pebbles or snail shells”, explains the fire expert of the gendarmerie. Until the investigations are reduced to a circumscribed area and “methodically searched” in search of material elements, “well ahead of the blaze”. ” Next, resumes Mme Pezant, we apply the principle of increased power, with investigators who take over from or support specialists from the central office for combating damage to the environment and public health. »

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