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Italy police use drone to catch suspected arsonist in the act as wildfires char Calabria

Drone catches suspected arsonist in Italy
Drone video catches suspected arsonist in Italy 00:57

Rome — Police in southern Italy believe they've captured a serial arsonist thanks to an unexpected hero — a drone. Since early July, the Calabria region has been besieged by a series of devastating wildfires.

A breakthrough came after local law enforcement decided to enlist the help of a high-resolution camera drone with thermal imaging capabilities. According to police, the drone detected a thermal anomaly — a figure fleeing a nascent fire on a motorcycle through a remote field. 

The suspect can be seen throwing stones at the drone in a clip of the drone video released by police. 

The drone operator tracked the man to an isolated farmhouse, where local law enforcement apprehended the 47-year-old local resident. Police said he has a history of petty crimes.

His purported actions were lampooned by the regional governor. 

"Calabria is a civilized region, but it also has some imbeciles who go to set fires in the woods, like this arsonist we caught yesterday," Roberto Occhiuto said in a video shared on social media. "Where does he come from, the caves?"

Extreme heat, wildfires linked to climate change cause chaos across southern Europe and beyond 01:35

Occhiuto said the region had 30 drones at its disposal to monitor the wildfire situation, stressing there would be "zero tolerance" for arsonists.

Wildfires have raged throughout the Mediterranean region this summer, sometimes due to arson, but often fueled by record-high temperatures and strong winds. 

In Italy, the blazes have caused extensive damage to the country's lucrative agricultural sector, decimating thousands of acres of olive groves and other crops and temporarily shutting down major airports on the island of Sicily.

At least four deaths have been blamed on the fires in Italy this month, while Algeria, on the other side of the Mediterranean but blanketed with the same stifling heat, has suffered the deadliest blazes. At least 34 people have been killed in the country.

The United Nations said Thursday that this July was set to be the hottest month ever recorded.

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