TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) — State officials are calling on Florida residents to help combat arson after hundreds of cases of wildfires are believed to have been started intentionally.
Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and the Florida Forest Service announced Friday that more than 240 separate arson wildfires have occurred in 2017, an increase of nearly 70 percent compared to this time last year.
“More than 100 wildfires are burning across the state and forecasts predict heightened wildfire danger for the next few months,” said Florida State Forester Jim Karels. “Citizens and visitors who report suspicious wildfire activity are an invaluable resource as we work together to stop arsonists and keep wildfires at bay.”
Earlier this week, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency due to recent wildfires, hotter temperatures and drought-like conditions.
“From St. George Island in the Panhandle to a wildfire just north of one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions in Orlando, we’re seeing that every area of our state is susceptible to wildfire,” said Commissioner Putnam.
Residents can call 911 to report suspected arson or suspicious activity, as well as the department’s arson hotline at 1-800-342-5869.
Information that leads to an arrest and conviction of a wildland arsonist can receive up to $5,000. Arsonists face up to five years in prison for the felony crime.
When reporting suspected wildland arson activity, callers should remember the following:
• 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.
Click here to a see a map of the current wildfires burning in Florida.