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Nomad herdsman suspected of starting Gran Canaria fire 

Vuelo de reconocimiento sobre las zonas afectadas por el incendio de Tejeda a 23 de Septiembre de 2017. (Foto: Arturo Rodriguez/Presidencia GobCan)

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Police investigating the fatal forest fire on Gran Canaria which devastated more than 2,800 hectares of picturesque countryside believe it was started by “human hand” and have identified a nomad herdsman as the prime suspect.

Investigators are waiting to interview the Spaniard, in his 60s, but have been unable to talk to him because he suffered a stroke as he was about to be arrested.

He is currently in hospital and will be interviewed when he is well enough to do so.

Police are working on the theory that he used matches to start fires in the fields where his cattle were temporarily grazing to keep them from straying and to destroy scrubland despite a ban on doing so.

The forest blaze last September took weeks to control and at its height, 25ft high flames forced the evacuation of 800 people who had to take refuge in sports and social centres .

One woman, a 60-year-old Swiss resident who had lived on the island for years, could have saved herself but chose instead to try and bring her pet chickens to safety. She died in the fire.

At one stage, more than 300 firefighters were involved in the battle to contain the blaze and stop it from spreading.

The fire, which started in Tejeda, has affected the municipalities of San Mateo, San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Valsequillo. Agüimes, Santa Lucía, Ingenio, Valleseco and Telde.

Technicians say it was the most dangerous fire they had ever seen which is why so many people were evacuated.

After five months of investigations, police say they believe the travelling herds-man was to blame for the tragedy and is likely to be charged with a crime of homicide to the degree of imprudence when a person dies during a fire.

The man was reported to be living in the area of Tejeda where the fire started and is being linked to others in different parts of the island.