Dry weather increases the potential for lake area grass fires

CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) - As drought conditions intensify in the lake area, fire fighters fear the potential for grass fires will increase due to lack of rainfall and heavy winds.

On Monday Ward 8 Fire Department battled a fire that spread over nearly 100 acres of land in LeBleu Settlement as a result of dry conditions in the field. The fire was a controlled burn that got out of hand when the wind shifted directions.

"The heavy winds and the low humidity made it very difficult to contain it," said Lt. Charlotte Lantier with LeBleu Fire Department, Ward 8 District 2.

Lt. Lantier said wind gusts of 20 miles an hour and a low humidity of 40% worsened their efforts to control the fire.

Southwest Louisiana has seen a 20 inch deficit of rain carried over from the year 2010. Even with rain in the forecast, 7News Meteorologist Ben Terry said it will not make up for the rain deficit the lake area is currently under.

"A little bit of rain here and there is good for the short term but over all it looks like we're going to be in this for quite a awhile," said Terry.

Despite these factors, the Office of Emergency Preparedness is holding off on placing a burn ban for all of Calcasieu Parish. OEP officials said the soil moisture has not surpassed the danger zone.

"When it's in a danger zone of greater than 700, that's when you issue a burn ban," said Norman Bourdreau, Operations Manager for Calcasieu Parish OEP. "Currently in Calcasieu Parish we're in a 501.26 range. We are getting there but we're not quite there yet on that index."

Although there is no burn ban for all of southwest Louisiana, fire officials are urging residents to use extreme caution when conducting their own controlled burn.

"You have to be careful with that wind direction," said Lantier. "At one minute it can be from the north or the south and then just switch on you. You just need to be aware of that."

Fire officials also advise residents to check the humidity and wind advisory for the day before conducting a controlled burn.

Parish wide burn bans are currently in place for Cameron and Jeff Davis Parishes. A burn ban is also in place for Ward 3, which includes most of Lake Charles. OEP officials are polling some of the local fire departments to help determine if a ban for all of Calcasieu Parish needs to be issued.