Misdemeanor arson example
If an abandoned building is burned it qualifies as a misdemeanor, however if a well occupied building is burned then a felony has occurred. This can easily be escalated to attempted murder, or murder depending on the circumstances.
This is just a general rule and the resulting charges will always depend on many factors relating to the crime.
Misdemeanors spread like wildfire into felonies
Of course fire is unpredictable and can quickly become dangerous. A fire set in a reckless manner with no intent to harm human life can spread and result in injury, death or the threat of either. In this case that person can be charged with a felony.
Felonies can be doused into misdemeanors
On the other hand felony arson charges can be reduced to a misdemeanor if it can be proven that the accused did not knowingly start the fire or did not know he could harm an individual with his actions. Another possibility is hiring a very good attorney that can plead it down to a misdemeanor.
Burn 'em if you got 'em
Historically burning ones own residence was not considered arson, even when done to collect the insurance. It was thought in early England that a person had the right to burn his own property regardless of reason. Of course this is no longer the case and insurance fraud is a crime that is seriously pursued.
Arson often conjures up the thought of someone setting a fire in a traditional way, with matches or a lighter. However many instruments can be used when committing arson, if something burns as a result of a bombing, damaging an explosive item or even if you are very prolific with rubbing two sticks together you can be found guilty of arson.
What to expect if you are in the situation?
A misdemeanor arson charge will usually be laid when there is very little chance of anyone being harmed; setting a fire in a garbage can or burning an abandoned structure may result in a misdemeanor arson charge. Setting a small fire that does not spread inside a home can also qualify as a misdemeanor provided you were not doing so to injure anybody.
Even when having a fire to sit around with friends or the provide warmth there is a element of danger. A fire that spreads and threatens human life or property damage can turn into a misdemeanor arson situation. Always remember to obtain all the permits needed for an outdoor fire and keep an ample supply of water near by.
Time for sentencing
Should you be charged with misdemeanor result the penalty will depend on the laws in your state, the severity of the fire in addition to any other factors so I can only ball park this one. A prison sentence of at least 1-year and not generally more than 6-years can often apply as well as fines in varying amounts.
If the property burned does not belong to you then you can also expect some kind of civil suit for the cost of the damages. See also: