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Caddo Parish man arrested in 250-acre wildland fire

July 14, 2011

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said state forestry agents arrested a north Caddo Parish man July 11 for negligence in a wildland fire that burned 250 acres of timber near the Trees community.
James D. Cook, 5236 Hwy. 2, Hosston, was arrested at the Caddo Correctional Center in Shreveport and charged with "Fire Raising on Lands of Another." Cook posted a $2,658 bond and was released July 14.
The fire also destroyed a fishing camp, motorhome, bass boat and storage building.
Forestry Enforcement Manager Jim Baldwin said the estimated timber damage was $300,000. No loss estimate has been determined for the property.
Baldwin said Cook allegedly allowed a wildland fire to get out of control as he was using a cutting torch to dismantle a large air compressor off Section 22 Road and Frog Island Road.
“On the morning of June 18th, Mr. Cook was using a cutting torch, and according to witnesses, a fire started from the torch and hot metal slag," Baldwin said. "The two witnesses had 10 gallons of water in their truck and thought the fire was extinguished, but Mr. Cook allegedly left the scene without ensuring that the fire was out.”
A local resident reported the fire burning under and around the compressor at noon and called 911, Baldwin said.
A dozen units from Caddo Parish Fire District Seven, mutual aid units from Texas, and four dozer crews from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry responded to the fire.
Strain said the drought conditions in the northwestern part of the state have made the area extremely vulnerable to wildfire.
"It’s difficult to comprehend how dry it is across the state right now and how easily a fire can start and get out of control," Strain said. "Because of flare-ups, it took LDAF firefighting crews three days before this particular fire was fully contained.
“The LDAF and the State Fire Marshal issued a state-wide burn ban on outdoor fires June 1 and we will continue to strictly enforce it to protect life, property and our forest resources."
There are a few exceptions to the burn ban, Strain said.
“The current burn ban does not apply to prescribed burns conducted by the LDAF or those performed by persons trained and certified by the LDAF,” Strain said. “Prescribed burning that is considered a generally accepted agricultural practice as defined by the Louisiana Right to Farm Law (R.S. 3:3601 et seq.) is also allowed, but not recommended at this time.”
The LDAF extends wildfire detection and suppression services to 18.9 million acres of developed and undeveloped land across the state. Of the 18.9 million acres, the LDAF receives wildfire detection and suppression funding from landowners for only 53 percent of the protected area.