Officials: Arson wildfires are on the rise statewide

Posted at 10:44 AM, Apr 16, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida officials say the number of arson wildfires has increased nearly 70 percent compared to last year.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Friday there have been more than 240 separate arson wildfires so far this year. Anyone convicted of arson, a felony, faces fines up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.

In Florida's Panhandle, a St. George Island man was charged with reckless burning causing a wildfire last week that burned nearly 70 acres and caused the evacuation of 55 homes.

Authorities told The News Herald the man would be responsible for the state's firefighting costs. He also faces 60 days in prison and a $500 fine if convicted of the second-degree misdemeanor. No structures were damaged and no injuries were reported.