Tallahassee, Fla.– Today, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Forest Service are highlighting Arson Awareness Week, May 2 – 8, by urging the public to help prevent wildfires by reporting suspected arson.
Florida’s unique landscape includes more than 26 million acres of wildlands. Nearly 80% of wildfires in the state are human-caused and some are intentional.
“Arson is a serious crime that not only threatens homes, property, and valuable natural resources, but also puts the lives of Floridians and our first responders at risk,” said Commissioner Fried. “Arson Awareness Week is an important reminder that everyone loses when arsonists strike.”
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,” said Erin Albury, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “We cannot tolerate behavior that intentionally endangers the people of this great state or our natural resources.”
When reporting suspicious activity in Florida’s forests or natural, wooded areas, callers should remember the following tips:
After calling 911, call the Arson Alert Hotline at 1-800-342-5869;
Do not approach the suspect;
Identify physical descriptions of the suspect;
Identify vehicle descriptions and license plate;
Identify the location where suspicious behavior was observed.
Callers can remain anonymous. Information that leads to the apprehension of an arsonist could result in a reward of up to $5,000.
The Florida Forestry Arson Alert Association is a nonprofit organization formed in 1986 by the Florida Legislature under the authority of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Created as a conduit to increase public awareness about arson in Florida’s forests and natural, wooded areas, the association furthers its mission by distributing rewards for information about incidents of this senseless crime. To learn more or to join the Florida Forestry Arson Alert Association, visit FDACS.gov/Arson.
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.