“We had a resumption of fire this afternoon (Thursday) on the Lussas side with the southerly winds which turned,” Jean-Philippe Ladet, commander of the SDIS relief operations, told AFP, referring to a “little plume”.

Three groups of firefighters “are on the spot, the area being difficult to access”, he said.

Faced with several simultaneous starts of fires in a reduced geographical radius, the authorities very quickly evoked an arsonist act.

A suspect was taken into custody late Wednesday morning at the Largentière gendarmerie company.

The man “who had a significant alcohol level during his arrest” confessed after being “confronted with numerous testimonies collected by the investigators” establishing his presence and that of his car at the start of the fires, according to a press release from the Privas prosecutor’s office which counts a total of 12 fire starts.

The suspect “acknowledged the charges against him” and will be presented on Friday before the investigating judge of the Privas court, according to the same source.

“More precise hearings will come to draw the outline of his responsibility for all the fire starts”, specified the prosecutor of Privas Cécile Deprade.

The President of the Ardèche department, Olivier Amrane, deplored Thursday damage “of an unprecedented scale in Ardèche” and called for exemplary sanctions.

“Arsonists are criminals who threaten the safety of people and undermine our heritage,” he said in a statement, announcing that he had filed a complaint.

The great drought and the wind have favored the outbreak of fire in several departments in recent days, some criminals, others accidental.

In the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence where a fire covered 300 hectares in the town of Rougon, on the heights of the Verdon Regional Natural Park, the situation is stabilizing.

The fire is no longer progressing thanks to the work of the 200 firefighters on site reinforced Thursday at the start of the afternoon by helicopter detachments from the Var and the Alpes-Maritimes supported by three helicopters including two water bombers, according to the prefecture.

Vacationers who had been preventively evacuated from the Huttopia campsite in Castellane will be able to return there given a “favorable development”, according to the same source.

– Fire fixed in the Hérault –

On Wednesday, near Montpellier, a fire that burned 800 hectares of vegetation was brought under control, without causing any casualties or burning homes.

These new fires come just after the two “exceptional” fires which ravaged nearly 21,000 hectares of forest in Gironde for twelve days and led to the evacuation of some 36,000 people.

In this department, some 500 firefighters were still on site Wednesday to deal with “the edges and hot spots”, probably for several more weeks, Thomas Couturier, spokesman for the firefighters, told AFP.

One of the department’s symbol sites, the Dune du Pilat, was able to reopen on Wednesday, “in secure conditions and with guided paths”.

On the judicial level, “an investigation has been opened into a criminal hypothesis” concerning the fire in Gignac, indicated the prosecutor of Montpellier, Fabrice Bélargent.

Also in the Hérault, another investigation for “voluntary damage by fire” led to the custody of a volunteer firefighter on Wednesday.

In addition to the mega-fires in Gironde, several fires also affected the southeast this summer, with in particular 1,600 hectares going up in smoke south of Avignon in mid-July.

In Ardèche, gusts of wind exceeding 70 km / h” and “drought for several months” fed the fire which did not cause any victims and did not affect homes, according to the local command of the relief operations.

– “We had a narrow escape” –

“I am relieved, we say to ourselves that we had a narrow escape, and at the same time a little worried”, reacted the mayor of Lussas, Claude Moncomble, who has “never experienced such a huge fire”.

“I am completely shocked, even traumatized. There was fire in the south, fire in the north …”, also testified Michel, a 68-year-old retiree in Darbres, a neighboring town.

“We did not stop …” from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., still blew Wednesday evening Romain Charbonnier, 22, 1st class volunteer firefighter, not far from a burning tree in front of a charred landscape where the smell of burning seizes nostrils. About 350 people were evacuated from the small tourist town of Vogüé and surrounding campsites.

Some 600 firefighters supported by water bombers (five Canadair and a Dash plane), as well as a hundred intervention vehicles and a civil security helicopter were mobilized.

If summers are dry in the south, with global warming, the intensity of these episodes of drought is likely to increase further, according to UN experts. In France, the level of drought has reached a record with 91 departments out of 96 forced to impose restrictions on the use of water.