Tallahassee, FL (May 4, 2012) Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced today that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Florida Forest Service will bring attention to the dangers of woods arson and encourage Floridians to report suspicious wildfire behavior during Arson Awareness Week, May 6 through 12.
“Under the current weather conditions, even the smallest spark has the potential to ignite a catastrophic wildfire,” said Commissioner Putnam. “With the help of Floridians, we hope to stop arsonists in their tracks and protect Florida’s most valuable resources.”
Woods arson costs Florida taxpayers millions of dollars each year. Arsonists have already caused more than 20 percent of all Florida wildfires since January, resulting in 5,000 acres burned. At this rate, Florida could potentially have more than 800 wildfires caused by arson on up to 15,000 acres this year, doubling the number of arson wildfires in the state from last year.
“Woods arson is a serious crime that not only threatens property and valuable resources, but also places Floridians at great risk,” said Jim Karels, the department’s Florida Forest Service Director. “The state is already experiencing high wildfire risk and will not tolerate anyone who purposefully endangers Floridians by engaging in these activities.”
Florida’s continuing drought also puts the state at high to extreme risk of wildfire danger. To date, 1,683 fires have burned 72,840 acres in Florida.
To report suspicious wildfire activity, contact the department’s Arson Alert Hotline at 1-800-342-5869. Callers can remain anonymous and information about wildland arson could result in a reward up to $5,000.
For more information about the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit www.FreshFromFlorida.com.