We’ve been repeating that most of these fires are man-made fires… And here we were right again!
A 38-year-old Quebec man has been found guilty for starting a series of devastating forest fires – which led to hectares worth of damage and displaced hundreds.
Brian Paré has plead guilty to staring 14 forest fires, including fires in Chapais and Lake Cavan, at a courthouse in Chibougamau in Quebec.
Paré, who has been detained since his arrest, said little during the hearing, only responding ‘yes’ to a series of questions from the judge.
He had been charged 13 counts of arson and one count of arson with disregard for human life.
It is unclear if the court has already determined his punishment or will hold another hearing.
Prosecutor Marie-Philippe Charron told the court the damage the Paré’s actions had caused in the country and how police were able to arrest him.
She told the court that two of the 14 fires set by him had forced the evacuation of around 500 homes in Chapais in June 2023.
It has been reported at the time that around 80 forest fires were burning on June 1, including eight that were ‘out of control,’ according to SOPFEU, a fire prevention agency.
At a press briefing on the same day, Mayor Isabelle Lessard said the evacuation order is not being lifted ‘given that the fire is still uncontrolled and still threatening.’
The young mayor resigned from her position in November after ‘suffering the effects of burnout’ from handling the wildfires.
One of the largest fires ignited by Paré was in Lake Cavan and burned 873 hectares of forest, she further told the court.
‘On May 31 at 8.30pm, the town of Chapais issued a mandatory evacuation order due to the raging fires, in particular the fire at Lake Cavan as well as the airport fire, two fires that are included in the charges and were cause by the accused,’ Charron said.
The devastating wildfire in Lake Cavan was the first of the five fires the convicted ignited between May 31 and June 1.
This fiery spree had come three days after the Quebec government banned open fires in or around forests due to dry weather conditions.
Investigators who began to probe into the cause of the five fires soon discovered that none of them were started naturally.
Charron told court that evidence was found indicating that some of the fires had been criminally set.
She said police first interviewed Paré on June 2, after he had been seen in the area where a fire had started and was considered a witness.
While he denied causing the fires, police began to suspect Paré as he ‘demonstrated a certain interest in fires’ when being questioned.
Around the same time, he had also begun to post about Quebec’s record-breaking forest fire season on his social media pages, according to officials.
They said some of the posts were claims that the fires had been deliberately set by the government to trick people into believing in climate change.
Charron further told the court ideology and behavior matched a profile of the suspect developed by provincial police specialists and officials soon gained a warrant to install a tracking device on Paré’s vehicle.
On September 1 and 5, 2023, the tracking device showed he was at the locations where other fires had started.
He was ultimately arrested on September 7 and admitted to the police that he had ignited nine of the fires.
The prosecutor told the court: ‘At this point, the accused admitted he was the one who started the fires and, as his main motivation, claimed he was doing tests to find out whether the forest was really dry or not.’
A pre-sentencing report has been ordered that will consider both Paré’s mental state and the risk he poses to public safety. It will be submitted by April 22.
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