Charges filed: Ousted developer Toomy blamed for fire

It's been a tough time for Alex Toomy. Last year, he moved out of the 7,000-square-foot house he built on 106 acres and lost, via foreclosure, the adjacent Ragged Mountain subdivision he'd developed. Asked by the new owners to clean up the lots in preparation for the spring selling season, he'd been conducting some outdoor brush burns.

Now he stands accused of starting, perhaps accidentally, one of the larger fires in recent history, a multi-day wildfire that scorched 800 acres, consumed a barn, and put as many as 40 houses at risk.

He's living on-site in a tenant house, and the new owners have tapped his ex-wife as listing agent for the now-blackened rolling hills.

"We could easily have another Ragged Mountain fire," said Albemarle Fire Chief Dan Eggleston, in announcing the two misdemeanor charges against Toomy at a Tuesday morning press conference.

If convicted, Toomy faces up to $750 in fines– $500 for breaking the state's springtime ban on pre-4pm burning and $250 for conducting a careless fire.

"I'm delighted that somebody's held responsible," says neighbor Rip Thomsen of the adjacent Colston subdivision. "I can't say that 750 dollars is a major fine. It should be more for that kind of negligence."

The larger issue, some neighbors say, is getting compensation for burned fences, incinerated foliage, and for firefighting expenses from the subdivision's owner, Ragged Mountain Partners LLC, which appears to have authorized the burns. However, one of the company's owners, Chris Sarpy, appeared at the March 1 press conference to tell the Fire Marshal that he didn't think Toomy did anything wrong.

"It started on your property," Fire Marshal James Barber told Sarpy.

"We don't think that was the source of the fire," replied Sarpy. "I talked to Alex last night, and he said he hadn't burned there in about two weeks."

Although Barber and Fire Chief Dan Eggleston declined to release specifics of the investigation, some neighbors believe they know what happened. They contend that the high winds of Saturday, February 19– which reportedly gusted as high as 40 or 50mph– rekindled dormant embers in a hilltop fire pile.

"The winds probably whipped it up and got it burning again," says Bob Huff, who lost three antique boats, a travel trailer, and his priceless collections of license plates and Texaco signs when the flames consumed his mountain-top barn in the adjacent Rosemont subdivision. Between the barn and its contents, Huff says he's out at least $100,000.

Toomy has not returned multiple phone messages. A judge will get the chance to sort things out on March 28.


There is no such thing as a priceless collection of license plates...

Also, what does this sentence mean? > "and his priceless collections of license plates Texaco signs..."

I sure don't see any type of conviction based on the speculation about how this fire might have started. I suppose the investigators have to give the impression they are doing their jobs though.

I would also like to think Huff had insurance. If he didn't, it's his own fault.

As far as firefighting expenses, I suspect the vast majority of those firefighters were volunteers. They do not get paid.


I think it is possible to do some sleuthing on this, and determine the start of the fire. Regardless of whether firefighters get paid does not talk about the cost of the equipment, water, and a variety of other things.

The reality here is that we are far too lenient on activites that really could harm a large portion of a community, while we worry about less harmful things. Americans these days don't understand anything unless it hits them in the pocket hard.

A criminal conviction means it is easy to hold him civilly liable for the damages.

it means incompetent & unprofessional, as usual, write some crap then write a correction later. they should do an entire paper of corrections

In the story above, I had omitted the word "and" between "license plates" and "Texaco signs." Thanks for pointing that out before we went to press.--hawes spencer

$750.00 ???????????? Man that's chump change. Make this Bum pay restitution (the cost of putting out the blaze) Bet ya he gets the "least" amount of penalty allowed by law for this.

The embers buried under the ashes in these burn piles can smolder for a really long time. Its entirely possible that he burned that pile a week or even 2 prior to the Saturday when the winds rekindled the fire and spread it.

As a relative to the accused and as a TV producer in the media, I find huge inaccuracies in this article, a lot of this is just NOT TRUE, and you should be ashamed Mr. Spencer. I'm positive he will be vindicated. GET YOUR STORTY RIGHT MORON!

Gasbag wrote:
"As far as firefighting expenses, I suspect the vast majority of those firefighters were volunteers. They do not get paid."

With all due respect, what about the diesel fuel expense for the fire trucks? I wll admit I don't know anything about fire trucks but I would imagine they have to keep those diesel engines running to run the water pumps (unless there was public water available). I imagine I am not including a lot more expenses (other than salaries). Diesel fuel is in the $3.70 per gallon range now and I can't imagine how much those big trucks burn up in an hour.

You had made your point quite well until the "GET YOUR STORTY RIGHT MORON" statement. There is simply no need for that, plain and simple.

nicknameoscar, the money for the diesel fuel is already in the budget.

The taxpayers have already footed this bill ahead of time when they paid their county taxes.

And when you have as many take-home vehicles as the city and county currently has, with many of these take-home vehicles traveling very long distances between work and home (as into other counties being allowed now), the price of fuel has never been a legitimate issue in the budget process.

I agree Nick, and I apologize for that. But there are major inaccuracies in this article, and if you call yourself 'editor' you should be getting your information from reliable sources, and clearly this was not the case here, plain and simple.

What a tangled web. Toomy helps Sarpy purchase ragged mountain development from BB&T after foreclosure on his( The Rocks LLC) 11M loan for under 5M and Sarpy gives exclusive real estate listing to his ex-wife. Toomy continues to work on the development. Toomy helps the Mauers, one of the few residents at ragged mountain development to buy his former ragged mountain farm for 3.2M from BB&T after foreclosure, BB&T holding a 5.5M loan. Toomy continues living in a guest house on the farm. His wife is living in their former spec house in The Rocks. Toomy alleged to accidently burn the development. Could divorce be a means to protect one's assets. This could be a reality show.

@C could you tell us what is incorrect in the story, if Mr. Spencer is an honest journalist I'm sure he would want to know so he could correct it.

Chump change? $ 750.00 is a lot of money to a man in his position. How easily we fall into the two obvious camps of guilty or innocent. A foreclosure is a nightmare and if he is living out on this property I can imagine $750.00 is a large hill to climb. Why is cash always the bottom line?
We need to observe and hope for the best. These anonymous forums are a breeding ground for irresponsible comments, the flavor of today is what is represented. Come on people, elevate your game here.

A couple named Alexander and Amy Toomy filed for bankruptcy on 6/29/2010. Bankruptcy Petition #: 10-61882, Western District of Virginia (Lynchburg).

the cost to fight the fire will be added to the charge, +$10,000 before the fines.

Toomy is a very nice guy and resembles Chris Farley. Hopefully, he will not be charged with this alleged, unintentional and unfortunate incident. Sorry for those who lost property and let's try to remember that everyone is human.

C'mon folks! Anyone who has ever spent any time outdoors should have known better than to light a fire OR leave a fire smoldering in the conditions we had that weekend. Bone dry grass and woodlands and 40mph winds. Even if the fire was a week old; if you left it hot, then you are guilty. Take some personal responsibility.

As far as costs, it doesn't matter if the firefighters were volunteers or if the barn was insured- your actions caused other people losses and you have the legal responsibility to make amends.

I guess we will have to agree to disagree. Money was spend to fight that fire. If it turns out the fire was accidental then the taxpayers or the volunteer fire companies are on the hook. If it turns out the fire was due to negligence then the person or persons found responsible for said negligence should be required to reimburse the taxpayers or volunteer fire companies.

That is how my perfect little world would work...but everyone knows how well that works :-) .

Serious question here....

Are people whose house burns down because they had a dirty chimney or left a cigarette burning or something required to pay for the costs associated with fighting the fire?


"The taxpayers have already footed this bill ahead of time when they paid their county taxes."

Well, and that takes us back to the original complaint that those who buy these places in land conservation status pay far less in taxes, yet will require the same services. those who can only get the 1 acre pay a far higher % on their property.

Old Timer, I can't help you there. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. That's the history of this country and always will be. If we want to argue fair treatment in paying taxes, I shouldn't have to pay taxes which go to the public school systems. I pulled my daughter out of the public school system. Or should we say the "schoos system", as a few top level administrators call themselves. This also explains why I pulled my daughter out of the "schoos system" in fact.

To Ray, and Rip, You both Sound like yankees that moved to the area. Both of you should go back to jersey.
Toomy, no way no how could have started this. How many other brush fires were in the area, close by..."Rosemont??? Brush fires in Rosemont. There you go.
To all of you that are so easy to point fingers.Go F Yourself!
Toomy should Counter for Slander.

Ackbar- Sorry, born and raised in the beautiful country of Virginia. Spent my youth in the Boy Scouts learning the basics of fire safety and respect for the outdoors and others. Shame you didn't get the same lessons.

Again- anyone who left a hot fire smoldering in the conditions we had is guilty of negligence and should be billed for the damages they caused. That's it, end of story. Has nothing to do with the Mason Dixon line.

ackbar With a name like that why don't you go back to Egypt or what ever country your from.
Why couldnt he have started the fire ? Doesnt know how to use a Zippo ?? You good ole boys stick together like flys on sh#t dont you. Well thats what happens when you marry your sister.

"Toomy is a very nice guy and resembles Chris Farley."

I just had to copy this. Yes, we're all human, except maybe real estate agents and most developers.
In the last few years blame has been spread around pretty evenly for the vast greed, stupidity, and unconscionable malfeasance that caused the real estate bubble and credit collapse, but still, the real estate "professionals" carry on, as bold as ever with their scams. These are the members of society who present themselves as the protectors and leaders of neighborhoods, some sort of higher class of social movers and facilitators, complete with their standards and code of ethics.
Can you imagine, the intimate, face-to-face fraud of evaluating the financial soundness of prospective buyers, of families, year after year, while touting the housing market and "resale" as signs of a good value. After a long time, they started bringing in loan reps to cover their asses, but there's no way in hell these greedy bastards didn't recognize that many of the families who were "trading up" couldn't afford it.
It's not much different from the unethical fraud that real estate "flippers" are being charged with lately in some of the hardest hit housing markets.
"Very nice guy..." "resembles Chris Farley.....?"

Leaving aside all suggestions to the effect that Mr. Toomey should be hanged on the downtown mall during "Fridays after five", I do hope the man has sense enough to stonewall this issue and make no admissions so that "The State" will have to prove its case.
Maybe his old burn pile rekindled and maybe not. Maybe some jughead walking around dropped a cigarette, but fires start during windy spring days and that wasn't the only fire. One of the curious things about wildfires is the desire to assign blame. Out in California fires start from power lines and cigarettes more often than not, but the "authorities" usually try to blame them on arson.

Ray it seems that once again you are eager to judge.Your Mother and father must be soooo proud that you are a boy scout.You werent a victim of child of mulust from your Troop leader ?Were you?.......Wow, What an accompolishment.
to you "I dontknowjustaskmywife"Dont you have better things to do with youself these days?Suggesting, that 1 marry his sister, What an obscene Jesture.Do you have experience in that?
Toomy is inocent.Wasnt even burning that day.

On the topic of firefighting expenses, while the majority of the firefighters were volunteer and yes, fuel is already in the budget, it's only really allocated for an average call load, and nothing about that day was average. It's like when VDOT budgets a certain amount for snow removal and then we get a winter like last winter, which blows the budget out of the water. There are a lot of other things, firefighting foam, hose that needs to be replaced, chainsaw blades that need to be replaced/sharpened, hand tools that may need to be replaced, etc. Then there are the other assets, Forestry Officers, dozer crews, the dozer itself, the Department of Forestry Mitigation Team that needed to come in to back-burn the area and reinforce the fire lines, they are paid people, and they used supplies.

To say that just because there were volunteers there, and the volunteer departments get operational funding assistance from the county, doesn't mean that the volunteer fire companies didn't spend a more than expected amount of money already doing the above things. You're basically saying that the county already planned ahead for this and has already back-loaded extra cash to the department to cover the cost?? What planet are you on??

Dustkicker, the end result is the fact the taxpayers will eventually pay for the extraordinary winter we had in late 2009 and early 2010. Whether it's county funds, state assistance funds or federal assitance funds... the taxpayers pay it in the long run. Just as they will pay for this fire suppression. And those who lost property or valuables will be compensated by their insurance companies. If the property owners didn't have insurance, it's their own fault.

But, good luck in sending Toomy a $398,000 bill...... if he is convicted. It sounds like one of the can't get blood out of a turnip affairs to me anyway. This is the way it works on Earth. :)