|Trinity Standard - Local News
Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company
Woman charged with five counts of arson
Trinity Standard -
TRINITY – Excitement generated by a wildfire north of Sebastopol last week is believed to have been the motive for a series of arson fires reported Sunday in that area. A 46-year-old woman, who resides on French Lane off FM 355, was arrested Monday on five counts of felony arson in connection with the fires. She was being held in the Trinity County Jail early this week. According to Pct. 1 Constable Woody Wallace, Tommie Ragsdale has given investigators a statement regarding her involvement with the fires. Two of the fires occurred along FM 355 and the other three were found in the woods behind her residence off French Lane. Fortunately, firefighters were still in the area looking for hotspots from last week’s “Truck Flip” Fire that destroyed almost 1,000 acres of woodland and threatened half a dozen homes. “They were able to put out the fires fairly quickly and only small areas were burned,” Wallace said. Wallace said that on Sunday, a motorist spotted the suspect’s vehicle stopped along FM 355 near Chita and when he returned a few minutes later found a fire burning beside the road at that spot. A second fire was later found by the road and was quickly extinguished. The fires behind the suspect’s mobile home were located when she reportedly went to a neighbor’s residence and told him she had spotted “three fires” in the woods. The neighbor called for help and when firefighters arrived, they initially found only two areas that were burning. A third area was later found farther back into the woods and it also was doused. “When she was questioned, the suspect said she hadn’t been back there where the three fires were found. That and other statements just didn’t add up,” Wallace said. A follow-up investigation lead Wallace to the motorist who reported a vehicle near where one of the FM 355 fires occurred and the description matched the vehicle driven by Ragsdale. She was taken into custody on Monday and charged with felony arson. Assisting Wallace with the investigation was Trinity Police Chief Steve Jones. The Truck Flip Fire that occurred earlier in that area was so named because it was stated by a fatal truck accident that claimed the life of Billy E. Hogg, 75, of Livingston. Hogg was driving a log truck when it flipped over on a curve on FM 355 and caught fire. Hogg was trapped inside the cab of the overturned truck and was killed by the fire. Firefighters from the 356 Volunteer Fire Department were joined by those from Trinity, Groveton, Onalaska, Livingston and other area department to battle the resulting fire. Initial estimates of the area burned was placed at over 2,000 but according to the Texas Forest Service’s wildfire website, only 832 acres were destroyed. While no homes or other structures were destroyed, a number of residents were evacuated when the fire moved toward inhabited areas. The fire began on the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 13, and firefighters worked into the night before halting its advance at about 11 p.m. Local firefighters continued to work on the fire throughout the week, looking for hotspots that might reignite the blaze. During the height of the fire on Tuesday, officials with the Trinity Volunteer Fire Department’s Ladies Auxiliary organized food for the small army of firefighters at the Truck Flip Fire. Trinity restaurants including McDonalds, Sonic and Subway all donated sandwiches to send to those battling the blaze.