WEST MONROE, La. (8/12/2019) — According to records, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry firefighters fought more than 1,600 wildfires in 2008. A decade later, that number has decreased by more than 60 percent despite the increase in burn bans. Commissioner of the department, Dr. Mike Strain, says this is because of improvements the department has made through public awareness campaigns.
“The discussions in public is that wildfires aren’t cool because it destroys property,” Strain said. “It can destroy very delicate wildlife habitats, and it can also result in loss of properties, loss of homes, and loss of life.”
LDAF enforcement officers are also cracking down on arson. The department conducted 150 investigations leading to more than 20 arrests in the past 5 years alone.
“And the number of arson cases, which at one time was almost half of our wildfires were due to arson,” ,” Strain said. “Now that’s less than 25 percent and the total number has gone down dramatically.”
The Geographic Information System (GIS) and the Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) have also played an important part in helping manage fire fighting activities.
“And that has had a market effect and we really applaud everyone for working with us, and really when there’s a burn ban, not burning, we’ve’s also agressively educated our people through our prescribed burning programs,” Strain said.
Department personnel say there are a few safety ways to practice to continue to lower the number of wildfires in Louisiana, including putting out cigarettes and never leaving a fire unattended.