Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (both D-Calif.) today introduced legislation requiring states to create databases to keep track of criminal arsonists and bombers.
Its introduction follows the Station Fire in Los Angeles County, which killed two Los Angeles County firefighters on August 30. Authorities have classified it as an arson fire and have launched a homicide investigation.
“The Station Fire in Los Angeles was set by an arsonist, and it killed two Los Angeles County firefighters,” Senator Feinstein said.
“Sadly, this isn’t the first time an arsonist has set a wildfire in California that took innocent lives and destroyed vast amounts of wilderness and property. This is simply unacceptable. We need to give law enforcement the tools it needs to keep track of criminal arsonists. This bill will do exactly that. It’s a common-sense piece of legislation, and if it stops one arsonist from setting another wildfire it will be well worth the effort.”
“We must go after arsonists with everything we have,” Senator Boxer said. “Los Angeles County is still fighting the Station Fire – its biggest fire in history – and one that was intentionally set. We all know the tragic consequences, including the deaths of two firefighters. By creating a national arson registry, we will give law enforcement a powerful tool to identify and track arsonists who threaten our communities.”
The Matching Arson Through Criminal History (MATCH) Act would create a national arson registry, requiring convicted arsonists to report where they live, work, and go to school. It is the Senate companion to H.R. 1759, introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Mary Bono Mack (R-Palm Springs) and Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena).
The Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest is the largest fire in recorded history in Los Angeles County. It has burned more than 160,000 acres and destroyed or damaged 89 homes and 26 businesses.
On August 30, fire Captain Tedmund Hall and Specialist Arnaldo Quinones were killed when their truck fell 800 feet into a ravine. Officials believe they had ordered dozens of people to seek shelter while fighting through flames to search for an escape route from their remote mountain camp. On Monday, the Senate passed a resolution by Senators Boxer and Feinstein honoring the fallen firefighters.
In 2006, five U.S. Forest Service firefighters died in a wildfire set by an arsonist in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains. Raymond Lee Oyler has been sentenced to death for setting that blaze.
Following is a summary of the MATCH Act:
- Requires states to create a statewide registry. Criminal arsonists and bombers are required to register and to keep registration up to date. Failure to do so is accompanied by a mandatory penalty. Arsonists and bombers are required to annually verify their registration at least once a year.
- Requires criminal arsonists and bombers to provide their name, Social Security number, any applicable address, and pertinent vehicle information. The jurisdiction is required to provide the text of the law violated, as well as a physical description, criminal history, photograph, photocopied I.D., and fingerprints of the arsonist.
- Establishes length of time on registry based on number of offenses. Five years for one offense, 10 years for two offenses, and lifetime for three or more offenses.
- Requires each jurisdiction to make information about the arsonist or bomber available on the Internet, readily accessible to approved law-enforcement agencies; Attorney General responsible for creating and maintaining National Arsonist Registry. The Attorney General is also responsible for developing and providing the software necessary for jurisdictions to comply with the law.
- Creates Criminal Arsonist Management Assistance Program, to be established and implemented by Attorney General. This program will allow the Attorney General to provide grants to jurisdictions to offset the costs of establishing and complying with these programs. Grant applications must be submitted by the jurisdiction on an annual basis. Jurisdictions are also eligible for bonus payments. The Attorney General will distribute such sums as necessary, authorized to be appropriated for each fiscal year from 2010-2014.