BATON ROUGE, La. — (8/12/19) Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) has seen a drastic decrease in wildfires over the past decade for various reasons. According to records, LDAF firefighters battled and suppressed 1,638 wildfires in 2008. In 2018, LDAF firefighters suppressed 676 wildfires in Louisiana.
“We believe there are multiple factors that have contributed to the significant decline in wildfire occurrence throughout Louisiana,” said Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M.
“While weather and forest conditions continue to vary, our forestry division’s efforts are making a difference and reducing the number of destructive wildfires across our state.”
The efforts include outreach programs to inform citizens on responsible debris burning, prescribed burning, utilizing modern wildland fire detection techniques and LDAF enforcement officers aggressively pursuing arsonists. LDAF enforcement officers have conducted 150 investigations resulting in 25 arrests in the past five years. These arson cases account for 5,240 acres of burned timberland.
Public awareness efforts include the Certified Prescribed Burner program, in conjunction with the LSU AgCenter, which teaches landowners best practices on how to safely conduct prescribed burns on their property.
The LDAF also utilizes aerial surveillance for wildfire detection and suppression. This practice allows for inspection of larger areas and provides support to ground crews during firefighting efforts.
TheLDAF’s use of technology such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) also helps manage firefighting activities. “The GPS and GIS assist us in plotting areas where fires are being set and are threatening people’s lives and properties,” added Strain.
Through mutual aid agreements, LDAF wildland firefighters also assist with wildfire fighting efforts in other states. These opportunities provide valuable experiences for LDAF employees, aid to other state and federal agencies and reciprocation of assistance, if needed.
“We are changing the culture when it comes to protecting property from the threat of wildfires,” added Strain.