The worst drought to hit Louisiana in many years is creating perfect conditions for wild land fires.

“Our Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) wild land firefighting crews are dealing with fires on a daily basis,” said Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M. “LDAF forestry enforcement investigators are working overtime to determine if the current rash of wild land fires is created by natural causes or the work of arsonists.

“One thing is certain: woods arson is a serious crime. In most cases, it’s a felony. If anyone is caught setting a woods fire, my office will do everything in its power to see that the violators serve jail time and pay full restitution.”

State Forester Wade Dubea said a wild land fire off Hwy. 12 near DeQuincy burned more than 691 acres on Sunday, June 12. The next day, LDAF fire crews suppressed two more fires in the same area. The 691-acre plot of timberland has an estimated value of $250,000 or more.

The cause of the DeQuincy fires is under investigation and arson is suspected.

“LDAF has already responded to and suppressed 197 wildfires that burned 4,000 acres of wild land and commercial forest land in the month of June,” Dubea said. “We had only 91 wildfires the entire month of June in 2010.”

Strain said a statewide burn ban continues to be in effect and will remain in place until further notice. “The burn ban means no outdoor burning of any kind. If you have any questions pertaining to what constitutes an outdoor fire, check with your local fire department.”

There are a few exceptions to the burn ban.

“The current burn ban does not apply to prescribed burns conducted by the LDAF or those performed by persons trained and certified by the LDAF,” Strain said. “Prescribed burning that is considered a generally accepted agricultural practice as defined by the Louisiana Right to Farm Law (R.S. 3:3601 et seq.) is also allowed, but not recommended at this time.” 

The LDAF extends wildfire detection and suppression services to 18.9 million acres of developed and undeveloped land across the state. Of the 18.9 million acres, the LDAF receives wildfire detection and suppression funding from landowners for only 53 percent of the protected area.