A Pitkin woman is accused of setting wildfires in Rapides Parish that spread to Vernon Parish and became known as the Union Hill wildfire that destroyed more than $2 million of timber, according to the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF).
Laura Mclaughlin, no age given, was booked into the Rapides Parish Jail on four counts of simple arson and one count of obstruction of justice Sept. 22 following an investigation of the LDAF Enforcement Division. Bond was set at $25,000.
The Union Hill wildfire consumed more than 7,000 acres of timber and a home. The fires raged for several days and LDAF continues to monitor the area. In addition to the destruction of $2 million of timber, the cost to suppress the flames is estimated at $2.7 million, LDAF said.
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.