A Quebec man who had accused the government of starting wildfires in Quebec last summer was arrested near a fire and said he had started nine. There were about 700 forest fires across Quebec through the spring and summer of 2023, burning through 4.5 million hectares of forest, according to Quebec’s forest fire service (SOPFEU). The organization said 99.9% of the wildfires were caused by lightning. On Monday, at the Chibougamau courthouse, Brian Pare, 38, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of arson and one count of arson with disregard for human life, according to the Canadian Press (CP). Prosecutor Marie-Philippe Charron testified two of the 14 fires set by Pare led to the evacuation of 500 families in Chapais, a small town in the northwest of the province. Charron said the people of Chapais were kept from their homes for four days and the fires burned nearly 873 hectares of forest. She said Pare set off a series of five fires between May 31 and June 1. Three days earlier, the Province of Quebec had banned fires near forests due to dry conditions. The prosecutor said the five localized fires had caused suspicion and officials “observed that some of the fires had no possible natural cause” and had found criminal evidence. Police first spoke to Pare on June 2. He was considered a witness to one of the fires because he was seen nearby. At the time Pare denied having anything to do with starting the fires, but, according to Charron, “demonstrated a certain interest in fires,” so police clocked him as a suspect. Police began watching Pare in June after he began posting to Facebook about the rampant wildfires in Quebec last May and June, Charron said. In his posts, Pare was allegedly claiming the government had purposely started the fires with the agenda of pushing climate change. Police found Pare’s “ideology and behaviour” on Facebook and otherwise “matched a profile of the suspect developed by provincial police specialists,” Charron said, per CP. Officials “obtained a warrant to install a tracking device on Pare’s vehicle” and tracked him to locations where other fires started September 1 and September 5. He was arrested on September 7 and while being questioned, he said he started nine fires. “At this point, the accused admitted he was the one who started the fires and, as his main motivation, claimed he was doing tests to find out whether the forest was really dry or not,” Charron said.Pare’s sentencing will be based on his mental state and whether he is a threat to public safety. The pre-sentencing report will be released in April.