Wildfires on the rise in Louisiana

DEQUINCY, LA (KPLC) - The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry said the state is experiencing its worst drought in many years and it is creating perfect conditions for wildfires, like those near DeQuincy earlier this week.

In fact, authorities believe arson may be behind three wildfires that broke out south of DeQuincy on Sunday and Monday.

The fires burned more than 690 acres near Highway 12, causing more than $250,000 in damage.

The DeQuincy fires are just three of the 197 fires that have charred 4,000 acres across the state in the month of June so far. To put those statistics in perspective, in June 2010, there were only 91 wildfires.

"Our Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry wildland firefighting crews are dealing with fires on a daily basis," said Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain. "[Our] forestry enforcement investigators are working overtime to determine if the current rash of wildland fires is created by natural causes or the work of arsonists."

Arson is considered a felony and violators could serve serious jail time.

Meanwhile, a statewide burn ban remains in effect, which means no outdoor burning is allowed.

"We're still having to go out and do a lot of grass fires," said Lake Charles Fire Chief Keith Murray. "Even though we had a little bit of rain the last couple of weeks, it's by no means [enough]."

The DeQuincy wildfires remain under investigation.

Copyright 2011 KPLC. All rights reserved.