A resident of Chibougamau, Quebec, Brian Pare, 37, finds himself detained pending a Monday bail hearing for accusations that he set forest fires during the province’s unprecedented wildfire season. Pare was arrested and charged with two counts of arson last Thursday, with prosecutors alleging that he intentionally initiated a series of explosions and fires in a forest between July 8 and Tuesday. A subsequent arson charge arises from a fire incident in late May at a nondescript fishing cabin that was not Pare’s property.
Officials from the Provincial police are engaged in efforts to discern whether the fires Pare is accused of starting have any link to the significant wildfires close to Chibougamau, a city located 450 kilometres northwest of Quebec City. An investigation trailing the devastation, which led to an enforced evacuation of the city’s 7,500 inhabitants in June, is ongoing.
“The in-depth enquiry runs unabated and we have to explore any connections between the prime forest fires that plagued the Chibougamau area,” stated Sgt. Hugues Beaulieu during a press interaction on Friday. He added, “There’s much to be done, but we have been able to propose two charges so far.”
According to Beaulieu, the investigation took off with the fishing cabin blaze. During the course of their inquiries, the police stumbled upon evidence that eventually culminated in the recent arrest of Pare. Beaulieu acknowledged that the investigation benefited from a team of criminal profilers, behaviour analysis experts, and forensic psychologists.
Manon Cyr, the mayor of Chibougamau, communicated her relief upon hearing of Pare’s arrest and maintained in a recent Friday interview that the fires Pare is claimed to have started bear no connection to the monumental wildfires that led to the town evacuation in June. “The colossal fires causing the evacuation were a result of lightning,” Cyr clarified.
Nonetheless, the charge against Pare pertains to his alleged deliberate initiation of fires during a period when the government had imposed a temporary ban on open-air fires and restricted access to the forests to the public.
The town of Chibougamau underwent an evacuation phase on June 6 that lasted for roughly a week due to wildfires and deteriorating air quality conditions. Quebec witnessed an extraordinary forest fire season this year, with nearly 15,000 square kilometres laid to waste by the searing flames.
As stated by Beaulieu, Quebec’s major crimes unit has been tasked with handling the investigation.