A MAN has been arrested accused of setting four fires that destroyed up to 8,000 palms in Elche’s World Heritage listed groves.
The city’s Local Police detained the suspected arsonist, who lives in the hamlet of La Baia. Police say that he has admitted to causing the blazes, and that he is known to have caused several other fires six years ago.
At the time of going to press he remained in detention awaiting trial having been arrested on Sunday.
The fires broke out on the night of June 29, all within the space of five hours. It took 25 firefighters from Elche, Crevillent, San Vicente and Almoradi stations plus six forest firefighters to extinguish the flames.
The palm groves, which date back to Moorish times, were designated a World Heritage site by Unesco in 2000.
In recent years the 200,000 palms have been threatened by the larvae of the red palm weevil, a pest which has killed thousands of palms throughout Spain.
Currently the Palm Grove is under management to avoid the spread of the pest using a combination of biological pest control, pheromone traps and approved specific pesticides.