BATON ROUGE, LA — Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said a $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the Sept. 2 Natchitoches Parish wildfire.
Strain said the Louisiana Forestry Association, Hancock Forestry, Roy O. Martin Co., Weyerhaeuser and the Natchitoches Chamber of Commerce put up the reward.
Strain made the announcement at a press conference held Oct. 18, at the address of Natchitoches Parish Sheriff Deputy Ronnie Quick. Quick’s home, 3048 Hwy. 153, Saline, was destroyed in the fire.
The fire, dubbed the “TD13 Fire,” burned nearly 5,000 acres of timberland and destroyed 10 homes and 35 outbuildings. Timber losses were estimated at $5 million in addition to $2 to $3 million in lost homes and other items.
Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) investigators determined the cause of the fire was arson.
“It is important that we find whoever is responsible for this fire and hold them accountable,” Strain said. “We are asking anyone with information to come forward.”
The fire was first reported to the LDAF Natchitoches office as being near the Ashland and Creston communities around 1:45 p.m., Sept. 2. LDAF firefighting crews were immediately dispatched.
Sixteen crews, 11 from the LDAF and five from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), worked through the night installing firelines.
In addition to the 16 bulldozer and engine crews, three LDAF aircraft, a USFS Type 3 helicopter and two single engine air tankers (SEATS) assisted in the operation.
Strain said local fire departments, local area officials, Louisiana National Guard, Natchitoches and Winn parish offices of emergency preparedness, Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office and Red Cross all gave assistance.
State Forester Wade Dubea said 2,695 fires have burned more than 35,753 acres of wildland and timber so far in 2011. In 2010, 2,335 wildfires burned 23,138 acres.
“Nearly half the state is under burn ban orders,” Dubea said. “Conditions are very dry and wildfires can get out of hand very quickly. We will investigate the cause of every wildfire and take appropriate action.”
To report a suspected arson, call the LDAF’s emergency hotline number at 1-855-452-5323.