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Forestry agents arrest a Rapides Parish woman for setting fires resulting in millions in damages

On September 22, investigators with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s (LDAF) Enforcement Division arrested Laura Mclaughlin of Pitkin, LA, for setting wildfires in Rapides Parish.

In the early morning hours of August 24, LDAF fire crews and the Plainview Fire Department responded to multiple wildfires set in the Union Hill area in Rapides Parish. LDAF enforcement investigators, Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives, and Office of State Fire Marshal deputies immediately began investigating the wildfires as arson was suspected to be the cause.

Originating in Rapides Parish and burning into Vernon Parish, the fires consumed over 7,000 acres of timber and one residence. These fires raged for several days and continue to be monitored. The total value of the timber burned is estimated to be over 2 million dollars. The suppression cost associated with these fires is estimated at 2.7 million dollars.

Mclaughlin was booked in the Rapides Parish Jail on four counts of simple arson and one count of obstruction of justice. The bond was set at $25,000.

The crime of simple arson, where the damage amounts to five hundred dollars or more, carries a fine of not more than $15,000 and imprisonment at hard labor for not more than 15 years. Where the damage is less than $500, the offender shall be fined no more than $2,500 or imprisoned with or without hard labor for no more than five years or both.

All persons accused of crimes are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

The public is urged to report any and all forestry-related crimes to the LDAF 24-hour hotline at 1-855-452-5323.


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