Italian firefighters ‘started blazes deliberately so they would have fires to extinguish’

A group of 15 firefighters have been accused of starting blazes deliberately so they would have fires to put out.

The firefighters allegedly started a number of fires on the Italian island of Sicily that they were then called to extinguish.

The island is often plagued by arson fires during the summer.

Police in Ragusa said the head of a firefighting squad was put under house arrest and other firefighters are under investigation.

These types of auxiliary firefighters receive 10 euro (£9) per hour from the Italian government to fight fires.

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Police said fire department officials tipped off authorities that one team of auxiliaries was called much more frequently than others to work in the summers of 2013 and 2014.

The ANSA news agency said some are also suspected of calling in false alarms.

This summer, several arson fires have raged in Sicily and much of central and southern Italy, amid a drought and heat wave.

It was reported that the firefighters either rang the emergency number themselves or got their friends or family to call.

Their commander allegedly skipped shifts in order to start the fires. He was put under house arrest after he was accused of starting fires after the other volunteers had stopped.

The team responded to 120 incidents across the two summer periods, compared to 40 incidents which were dealt with by other firefighting groups.

(Picture: Getty)