ASCENSION PARISH — Fire crews from across Ascension Parish worked through the night to contain a 160-acre wildfire along Hwy. 42 in Galvez.
Parish officials declared a state of emergency for the fire that has been burning in the Hwy 42, Terraceside, and Pin Oak Corridor area for over a week.
“(We are) feeling like we may be on the other side of this event,” St. Amant Fire Chief James Leblanc said. “The work (that is being done) was unreal.”
Nearby residents were evacuated over the weekend with around 10-15 homes in close proximately to the fire. But, according to Ascension Parish officials, the mandatory evacuation was lifted shortly after midnight Monday. As crews continue to get a handle on the fire, they believe that no homes are threatened at this time.
St. Amant Fire Chief Leblanc says the fire was affecting a 160-acre tract of land and that 100 additional acres are burning.
He said once Parish President Clint Cointment declared a state of emergency, the parish resources have helped make the fire more accessible to first responders.
“For the last eight days, all the way up until yesterday (Sunday), we’ve been fighting this thing basically on your feet because you couldn’t get a vehicle big enough in there,” LeBlanc said. “Today, DPW (department of public works) is making passageways throughout the 160 acres so we can get in there with some vehicles and fight this fire.”
LeBlanc said they don’t know what started the fire, but the last eight days have been tough for the volunteer firefighters. He said they had to pull volunteers off to tend to between 15 and 20 fires on Sunday while fighting that fire Sunday.
“I’ve been a fire chief for 37 years. We’ve never seen this kind of a wildfire before,” he said. “At nighttime, the winds calm down, and you can hit all the embers and everything as much as you can. The winds pick up during the day, and it blows all the embers in places that haven’t burned yet. It starts all over again.”
“We don’t know exactly what the culprit is right now, but I can tell whatever the culprit was, it sure changed these volunteer firefighters’ lives for the last eight days,” he added.
The chief said they are comfortable they are getting closer to putting the fire out. He said they are hoping for rain and the winds to stay relatively calm.
One resident who lives less than five miles away from the fire was upset with the lack of communication from the parish.
“We had no clue,” the resident said. “My concern is that they’ve been fighting this fire for a week, and we didn’t know until yesterday afternoon. Anyone living four miles from it is certainly on a need-to-know basis, I would think. Ascension Parish needs to be more proactive about alerting the residents within a certain distance of these fires. These things can get out of control very quickly and spread in any direction. I understand this drought is nothing any of us have experienced here before, but the parish needs to quickly establish a means of communicating with the residents when fires break out.”