PHOENIX - A bill increasing the penalties for setting wildfires in Arizona cleared its second hurdle.
The bill to specifically address wildfires in the state’s arson laws was approved Wednesday by the state Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Senate’s Natural Resources and Transportation Committee endorsed the bill by Sen. Jack Brown, R-St. Johns, on Tuesday.
Unlike the state’s current law, that version of the bill would specify that a wildfire stemming from criminal negligence is a misdemeanor.
It also would make it a felony if a person intentionally starts a blaze knowing that his actions violate a government-imposed ban or restriction on burning during periods of extreme fire danger.
Brown said his bill (SB 1063) was prompted by last summer’s Rodeo-Chediski fire, a human-caused blaze that destroyed more than 460 homes, charred 469,000 acres and forced the evacuation of 30,000 people.