The following is a press release issued by the Office of California State Senator Mike McGuire:
The alarm couldn’t be louder. Our state is facing unprecedented, destructive wildfires – 14 of the largest 20 wildfires in California history have occurred just in the last decade.
Megafires have threatened the way of life for millions of Californians.
Some of these horribly destructive wildfires have been set by arsonists.
That’s why Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire announced that he has introduced a critically important bill, SB 281, to extend California’s law that throws the book at individuals who are convicted of aggravated arson. This is an issue that McGuire has championed for years.
Here’s why – some of California’s most destructive wildfires and commercial fires have been started by arsonists, such as:
- The Clayton Fire in Lake County in 2016 burned tens of thousands of acres near Lower Lake and destroyed 300 structures, including 189 homes.
- The massive five-alarm fire that destroyed a Home Depot in San Jose, causing more than $17 million in damages.
- The July 2021 fire set by a Clearlake Oaks resident in Lake County that destroyed or damaged 11 buildings.
- The Hopkins Fire in Mendocino County that destroyed 30 homes and burned 257 acres.
“An aggravated arson charge is reserved for the worst of the worst – the most heinous arsonists who exhibit specific intent to inflict damage and destruction in our communities or who are a continuing threat to society. We need to ensure this groundbreaking public safety law remains in place and we’ll be fighting to get this bill passed working alongside first responders and District Attorneys from across the Golden State,” Senator Mike McGuire said.
There are three possible ways to be convicted of aggravated arson: Any prior arson convictions within the last 10 years; damage or destruction of five or more inhabited structures; or damage and other losses and fire suppression costs in excess of $8.3 million.
“This legislation will provide District Attorneys across California with the tools needed to properly punish repeat criminals who wreak havoc in our communities through death and destruction,” said Sonoma County District Attorney Carla Rodriguez. “Aggravated arson affects the well-being of all Californians and should be addressed accordingly. We look forward to working with Senator McGuire to see SB 281 across the finish line.”
The bipartisan legislation is Joint Authored by Senator Stern and co-authored by Senator Dahle, Roth, Dodd, and Assemblymembers Aguiar Curry, Wood, Connolly and Dahle.