BREAKING: Pitkin woman arrested on multiple counts of arson related to Rapides, Vernon wildfire
Published 1:26 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Forestry agents have arrested a Pitkin woman for setting multiple fires in Rapides Parish that made their way into Vernon.
Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s Enforcement Division said it arrested Laura Mclaughlin on Friday for setting what ultimately became a massive wildfire.
“In the early morning hours of Aug. 24, LDAF fire crews and the Plainview Fire Department responded to multiple wildfires set in Union Hill. 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,” said LDAF spokesperson Jennifer Finley.
Originating in Rapides and burning into Vernon, the fires consumed more than 7,000 acres of timber and one residence. The fires raged for several days and continue to be monitored.
The total value of the timber burned is estimated to be over $2 million, Finley said. The suppression cost associated with these fires is estimated at $2.7 million.
Mclaughlin was booked in the Rapides Parish Jail on four counts of simple arson and one count of obstruction of justice. Her bond was set at $25,000.
The crime of simple arson, where the damage amounts to $500 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, Finley said.