Governor: Wildfires present ‘very dangerous, unpredictable’ weekend for Louisiana
This was one of two wildfires reported Friday, Aug. 25, 2023, in the Pitkin area of Vernon Parish. (Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office)
Record high heat and a scarcity of rainfall have turned much of rural Louisiana into a tinderbox, with state officials reporting 440 wildfires this summer as of Thursday and more than 30,000 acres of damaged or destroyed land.
Gov. John Bel Edwards reiterated caution Friday, signing an executive order that put a halt to all prescribed burns by the agricultural and forestry industries. A statewide burn ban is already in place indefinitely, going back to Aug. 7, and the governor declared a state of emergency for the extreme heat Aug. 11.
“Right now our state is facing a very dangerous and unpredictable situation with lots of fires burning statewide, and we cannot afford to have any exceptions to the current burn ban,” Edwards said in a statement Friday announcing his executive order. “Under normal conditions, prescribed burning is intended to be used as a land management tool, but these are not normal conditions and they are compounding the existing threat of wildfires due to the severe heat and drought we’re experiencing.”
Edwards spent a second consecutive day Friday monitoring efforts to contain wildfires in Beauregard Parish. KPLC-TV reports the Tiger Island blaze, covering an area between Merryville and Singer, flared up again. Firefighters had declared it 85% contained as of Thursday, but that figure was decreased to 50% Friday when unpredictable winds complicated efforts to contain the fire.
Mandatory evacuation orders remain in effect for Merryville, where the power is out, and Singer. Electricity won’t be restored in Merryville until the area is safe enough to inspect for utility damages.
About 25 miles southeast of the Tiger Island area, a new fire ignited Friday near Longville. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for Longville, with reports that the fire was moving north-northwest.
Compounding problems in Beauregard were burst water pipes that resulted in the loss of 700 gallons of water per minute. Parts of Singer had their water shut off because fire damaged a main line. People in the area can expect low water pressure and are being asked to limit their use.
In the far western part of the parish, a separate fire forced residents in the Bancroft community to evacuate Friday afternoon.
More information and resources for evacuees can be found on the KPLC website.
Firefighters tackled a fire in the Cooter’s Bog area northeast of Pitkin and a separate blaze about 7 miles east of the community, KALB-TV reported.
About 40 miles west in the Evans community, a fire that breached containment led to a mandatory evacuation for residents within a five-mile radius. A highway between Evans and the Junction community in Beauregard Parish, which has also been evacuated, is closed until further notice.
A Rosepine man was arrested Thursday afternoon for burning a trash pile in his yard, according to KALB. Authorities say Paul Nash, 59, is to blame for a fire in the Providence area that destroyed two mobile homes and an undetermined amount of timber acreage. Residents in the area were forced to evacuate because of the fire
Northeast of Rosepine, evacuations have been ordered for certain areas south of Fort Polk and the Vernon Parish Housing Authority apartment complex on Louisiana Highway 10.
More information and resources for evacuees can be found on the KALB website.
A fire in the Pirate’s Cove area next to the Toledo Bend Reservoir was brought under control Friday. Authorities reported damage to eight to 10 homes and advised that no one should come to the area unless they live there, according to KALB-TV.
A trash fire west of Amite got out of control and burned 171 acres of land, but volunteer firefighters kept the blaze from damaging any property, WVUE-TV reported. Emergency officials in Tangipahoa said they are fielding frequent calls to respond to illegal burning.
Firefighters in Sulphur responded to a brush fire late Friday afternoon and anticipated having it under control by nightfall.
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