Briton arrested after forest fire

Briton arrested after forest fire 

25 September 2005

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Spain — A British man and a French woman were arrested in southern Spain after they lit a fire as a beacon to rescuers when they became lost and started a massive forest fire.

A Foreign Office spokesman said it was understood the man, who has been named in some reports as Michael Hanks, 59, from Colchester, Essex, and his companion, a 50-year-old French woman, had been released after briefly appearing in court.

The pair were arrested by the Spanish Civil Guard on suspicion of starting the blaze in the Granada province of the southern Andalusia region, the spokesman said.

It is understood the pair were hiking through national park land near Granada when they became lost just before nightfall on Thursday.

They raised the alarm with a mobile telephone and then decided to light a small fire as a beacon to alert Civil Guard mountain rescue patrols searching for them.

The beacon worked and they were soon rescued.

But the fire raged out of control and spread through the tinder-dry forest at the height of a severe drought.

By Friday more than 150 firemen with 25 appliances, backed up by seven helicopters and five fire-fighting aircraft, were tackling the blaze.

Reinforcements, including five more aircraft and two helicopters, were also called to fight the flames.

The spokesman said it was understood that no specific charges had been levelled against the pair, as the judge is waiting for further investigations to be carried out before any decision is made.


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