Arson Bill May Help Firefighters this Brush Fire Season

(KHNL) -- With drier weather, firefighters are bracing for an increase in brushfires.

But they'll be getting help from two new bills just signed into law.

The first creates four degrees of arson violations, with penalties up to $50,000 in fines, and up to 20 years in jail. The second would make those responsible pay to for the cost to put out the fire. If those guilty are minors, their parents would be responsible.

"To a certain extent, I think it's gonna help," said Chester Saito.

His house in Honokai Hale was surrounded by a 400-acre plus brushfire last August. He says it was the worst fire in the more than 40-years he's lived there. Fortunately, his home was spared.

"Good thing my neighbors when help me with the water hose," he said. "Fire engine came down but you know, the fire was so fast."

That fire was one of the close to 1,000 on Oahu last year. There have been less than 200 so far this year. Fire officials say it's probably due to the weeks of heavy rains in the early part of the year.

But Saito knows it could get worse very soon.

"Eventually we going have problems -- dry weather," Saito said. "See all this one, once he get dry over here, hooo dangerous you know."

Saito points to the weeds and grass around his home that is starting to brown. He hopes the new laws will help protect him, but he knows every little bit counts.

"I cross my finger," he said.

Fire officials say they support any legislation that promotes public safety.