CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia plans to establish a national database of convicted and suspected arsonists in hopes of preventing destructive wildfires. The initiative is in response to last year's fires that killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland announced the initiative Monday after chairing an annual arson prevention meeting. The yearly meetings began after a series of fires, some suspected of being deliberately lit, devastated much of southern Australia in February last year.

McClelland said the database will give authorities up-to-date names and addresses of potential arsonists.

About half of the thousands of wildfires that blaze in Australia each year are deliberately lit or suspicious.