A court in Spain has jailed a volunteer firefighter for three and a half years and ordered him to pay €158,000 in damages for starting a blaze that burned through nearly 150 hectares of forest in northern Cantabria.
Cantabria’s provincial court found Luis Trueba, a former volunteer fire brigade chief in the village of Ramales de la Victoria, used petrol to deliberately start the forest fire in February 2019 in an apparent, and failed, attempt to ‘show off his skills in putting out the blaze!!!’
Data from the GPS tracker in Trueba’s government vehicle showed he drove directly to the spot where the blaze began, pausing for several minutes before continuing up the highway and alerting colleagues he could see flames. “Using gasoline as an accelerant he set fire to the scrub in at least seven different points,” the court found.
The prosector believes that the defendant provoked him to participate in the extinction and “satisfy his personal ego“, since he had a “desire for leadership.”
Explaining his absence from base, the firefighter said he had been delivering chairs to his cousin, an alibi the court dismissed as “unbelievable,” especially as the cousin in question testified he was yet to receive any chairs.
During a routine patrol of the area before the fire broke out, Trueba had told a colleague: “It’s very dry, one strike of a match and we’ll have to bring the hoses out“, while another colleague later saw him remove a petrol can from the car.
According to local newspaper El Diario Cantabria, another firefighter described Trueba as a pyromaniac who was like a “junky needing a fix” when it came to fire. The court said his role in putting out the blaze ended up being “neither efficient nor relevant“, with professional firefighters and two aircraft required to intervene.