A woman is being held on $100,000 bail after she allegedly set her own house on fire in Centralia Thursday afternoon.
The Riverside Fire Authority responded to the fully-involved structure fire on East Third Street at about 12:30 p.m. on July 29 alongside an officer with the Centralia Police Department. A witness told the officer “a lady who started the fire was running up the street,” according to court documents.
The officer contacted the woman, later identified as 55-year-old Rhonda K. Connor, and asked if it was her house that was on fire. In response, “Connor said that she started the fire because she was cold,” according to court documents.
She reportedly told the officer she had made an announcement for everyone to leave the house but was unsure if anyone was inside the residence when she started the fire, which she said she started in the front room using vegetable shortening.
When the officer asked for more information about additional people who may have been in the residence, “Connor blurted out ‘I started the fire, I did it on purpose,’” according to court documents.
Connor was arrested and was booked into the Lewis County Jail. She has since been charged with one count of first-degree arson, a Class A felony punishable by up to life in prison and fines up to $50,000.
Fire personnel were unable to enter the residence to conduct a search due to the roof collapsing onto the floor, according to court documents.
The entire interior of the house was destroyed in the blaze and investigators have not yet been able to collect evidence from the scene.
Centralia police were able to contact Connor’s son and confirm that he had not been in the house and that there was no one else living at the residence. Connor’s other children later contacted investigators to report Connor “has been having significant mental health problems in prior months,” according to court documents.
While Connor has no recent criminal history, Judge James Lawler cited concerns over community safety as reason to grant the state prosecutor’s request for the high bail amount.
“Community safety is clearly a concern given the allegations,” he said.
Connor’s next court appearance is an arraignment hearing scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 5.