This Arson Awareness Week, May 6-12, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam and the Florida Forest Service are reminding Floridians to help prevent wildfires by reporting suspected arson. Since the beginning of 2018, arsonists have started approximately 236 wildfires in Florida that have burned more than 4,620 acres.
“Unfortunately, man-made fires have exacerbated an already active wildfire season this year due to continuing drought conditions,” said Commissioner Adam H. Putnam, “With the help of Floridians, we can stop arsonists in their tracks and protect residents, property and wildlife from wildfire.”
The willful, malicious or intentional burning of forest, grass or woodlands not owned by the person burning is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, five years in prison or both.
“If you see suspicious activity, report it. The best way to stop arsonists is to let them know you’re watching,” said Jim Karels, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “We will not tolerate anyone who intentionally endangers Floridians and our visitors.”
To report suspicious wildfire activity, contact the Florida Forestry Arson Alert Association at 1-800-342-5869 or your local Florida Forest Service field unit. Callers can remain anonymous, and information that leads to the apprehension of an arsonist could result in a reward of up to $5,000. When reporting suspected wildland arson activity, callers should remember the following tips:
- After calling 911, call 1-800-342-5869;
- Do not approach the suspect;
- Identify vehicle descriptions and license plates;
- Identify physical descriptions of suspects; and
- Identify the location where the suspicious behavior was observed.
The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres.