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2 California lawmakers push for national system to track arsonists

Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-Palm Springs) and Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) call for quick action on their bill to require convicted arsonists to report to authorities where they live, work and attend school.

September 10, 2009|Richard Simon

WASHINGTON — Los Angeles County's largest fire in modern history led a pair of California lawmakers Wednesday to step up efforts to win congressional approval of legislation that would set up a national system for tracking convicted arsonists.

"We as Californians understand the incalculable damage that can be caused by wildfire, which makes it all the more essential that we do everything possible to prevent unnecessary and senseless disaster at the hand of an arsonist," said Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Palm Springs).

She was joined by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) in urging congressional leaders to allow a vote as soon as possible on their bill, the Managing Arson Through Criminal History, or MATCH, Act.

"The Station fire is only the most recent and most devastating example of the need to take stronger action to combat arson," Schiff said.

Arson is suspected in the fire, which killed two Los Angeles County firefighters and destroyed dozens of structures.

The lawmakers' call for speedy action on their bill came as the House approved a resolution paying tribute to the firefighters who died, Capt. Tedmund "Ted" Hall and Firefighter Specialist Arnaldo "Arnie" Quinones.

"We also pay tribute to the firefighters who have taken on this fire and helped save thousands of homes and lives," said Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas).

The arson legislation would require convicted arsonists -- many of whom are repeat offenders -- to report to authorities where they live, work and attend school. An arsonist would be required to register for five years for one offense, 10 years for two and for life for three or more offenses.

The measure easily cleared the House in the last Congress, but never came to a vote in the Senate.

It gained new interest after Raymond Lee Oyler was sentenced to death earlier this year for setting the 2006 Esperanza fire in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains, which killed five firefighters.

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rich.simon@latimes.com

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