Officials battling four times more fires than this time in 2022

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I’ve been through a lot of burn bans. I’ve been to a lot of summers and lots of grass fires, but I don’t recall anything with the combination of three that we have right now.” -Livingston Fire Chief

LIVINGSTON PARISH– A statewide burn ban was issued on Aug. 7 in Louisiana, but that has yet to stop first responders from fighting fires across the state.

On Wednesday afternoon, firefighters with Livingston District 4 put out a wildfire in Denham Springs on 4H Club Road. Officials say between one and two acres caught fire in the heavily dense wooded area.

The fire started around 12:30pm on Aug. 23 and was under control around 3pm.

Just last week, firefighters took on three fires Friday night in Walker and Albany.

In Livingston Parish, Fire District 4 has responded to over 70 grass, trash, or woods-related fires since Aug. 7. The combination of winds and dry conditions is dangerous.

“I ran numbers for August 2022,” said Livingston Parish Fire District 4 Chief James Wascom. “We had 17 trash/grass fires, the same fires we’re having now. In three weeks, we’ve had 70 plus. Anytime we go under a burn ban, our call volume always increases, but this year, this burn ban is different because it is so dry.”

Wascom said some of the fires have been a result of people not obeying the burn ban or not being informed about it.

“A lot of people don’t pay attention to the news,” he said. “They don’t look at social media. We run into that a lot of times. We hear people tell us all the time, ‘I don’t watch the news anymore. I don’t read the paper. I don’t look at social media.’ Some are just blatantly disobeying it. We fill them in that there is a burn ban, they can’t be burning, and if they continue to do so, we take action against them. The fire department doesn’t do any fining, but if necessary, we can call the fire marshal’s office or the sheriff’s office and have them take care of that.”

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a ‘Red Flag Warning’ for much of southeastern Louisiana, including Livingston Parish recently. Red flag warnings mean critical fire conditions, in this case, brought on by extended drought-like conditions, little to no rain in previous days or the future forecast, and winds up to 20 miles per hour. Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly.

According to the NWS, the warning is set to expire at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Wascom said the conditions over the last few months have led to a summer he hasn’t experienced before.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot of burn bans. I’ve been to a lot of summers and lots of grass fires, but I don’t recall anything with the combination of three that we have right now.

“Be very cognizant of your surroundings,” he added. “It doesn’t take long for a fire to get out of control and this type of weather. It’s extremely dry. If someone throws out a cigarette going down the interstate, there’s going to be a fire. They have to be very conscious of what they’re doing every step of the way.”

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