A new state law, House Bill No. 5692, is increasing penalties for crimes of arson.
Under the new law those who commit first degree arson could be sentenced to life in prison, or any term of years, and/or have to pay a fine of not more than $20,000 or three times the value of the property damaged or destroyed.
Prosecutors and law enforcement say the old laws gave arsonists a slap on the wrist and didn't recognize the potential for destruction and death related to such crimes.
In the old provisions of House Bill 5692, malicious or willful burning of a building, real property, or the contents of the building or real property, owned by the person or someone else, was considered a felony punishable by 10 years in prison. Burning a dwelling or its contents, whether it was occupied or unoccupied, was punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
According to the Michigan Arson Prevention Council, there were 10,552 arson and suspicious fires in Michigan in 2011. The cost of those fires topped $166 million.
In 2011, there were 287 arsons in Flint, making it the arson capital of the nation, according to the House Fiscal Agency.
You can read the entire House Bill No. 5692 here.