Police custody was extended Tuesday for a 39-year-old male who is suspected of starting a fire in Gironde’s Landiras town that has burnt nearly 13,000 hectares (32,124 acres) of forest land, according to media reports.
The Bordeaux prosecutor’s office confirmed to BFMTV news that the suspect was previously arrested in 2012 on similar arson charges.
A new investigation against the suspect has been opened for the destruction by fire of wood, forest, plantation and damage to humans and property.
If found guilty of deliberately starting a forest fire, he could face 15 years in prison and a fine of €150,000 ($152,700).
The suspect was arrested based on the testimony of a witness who approached police. The witness said the man was hurriedly trying to leave the forest area in Landiras as the fire was starting to ignite.
Investigators will try to determine if the suspect was responsible for three other fires between July 13 and July 15 in the same sector, according to the report.
The fire in La Teste-de-Buch was confirmed to have started from a spark from an electric vehicle.
The fires, which began in Landiras and Teste-de-Buch on July 12, have burnt an area of 19,300 hectares: 6,500 in Teste-de-Buch and 12,800 in Landiras in the district of Langon.
At least 2,000 firefighters supported by 10 aerial water bombers have been trying for one week to extinguish the fires.
Early Tuesday, smoke from the fires reached Bordeaux, roughly 60 kilometers (37 miles) from La Teste-de-Buch and 50 kilometers from Landiras.
Evacuations of the elderly were conducted from care homes and more than 32,000 residents and tourists have been evacuated in Gironde in the last week.
In addition to Gironde, nearly 300 wildfires are raging across France.
Environment Minister Christophe Bechu told the National Assembly that the fires have destroyed 27,000 hectares of vegetation.