In Jacksonville, Florida and throughout Florida the last few days, the news channels have extensively reported the damaging effects of wildfires that were allegedly caused by arson. Today, in Palm Bay, Florida, which is about two and a half hours south of Jacksonville, Florida, an arrest was made of a person suspected of committing the crime of arson and causing the wildfires by reportedly throwing a bottle containing an accelerant (a substance that speeds up the fire and/or makes the fire more intense) into the woods. As of today, the fires have burned approximately 15 square miles, including 20 homes, and caused approximately $9.6 million in damages.
In Florida, the crime of arson is committed when a person willfully and unlawfully, or while committing any felony, damages a dwelling or other structure by fire or explosion. The crime of arson is either a first degree felony or a second degree felony depending on whether or not the resulting fire damages a dwelling or another structure where a person is normally present or reasonably believed to be present. If the present case turns out to be arson as suspected, this crime would likely fall into the first degree felony category and carry the potential for significant jail time and restitution and/or fines.