Florida officials blame arsonists for 320 wildfires in 2017

Wildfire Lights Alachua County Highway
Posted at 4:29 PM, May 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-06 12:30:07-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida officials say arsonists have ignited about 320 wildfires so far this year, burning more than 20,000 acres across the state.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said severe drought conditions have increased the wildfire threat statewide, but arson causes many blazes. In a statement Friday, Putnam's office said arsonists started 400 wildfires in Florida in 2016.

The Ledger reports ( ) that Florida Forest Service investigators suspect arson in a 700-acre fire that damaged homes in a Polk County development in April. Several homes in the same Indian Lake Estates development were destroyed by a February blaze that burned 5,600 acres.

University of South Florida criminology professor Bryanna Fox said some arsonists set fires to commit insurance fraud or cover up another crime, while others suffer from psychological disorders and enjoy setting and watching fires.