Firefighters battle brush fire in Gillis

Smoke filled woods behind house
Smoke filled woods behind house
More Fire trucks arriving
More Fire trucks arriving
Water trucks also brought in and set up near large staging area.
Water trucks also brought in and set up near large staging area.


It was anything but a calm Sunday in Gillis off Mattie Reeves Road. Firefighters responded to a large brush fire out of control shortly after noon.  

"Once we got on scene we started utilizing mutual aid because the situation was more than we could handle," said Captain Robby Trahan, Ward 1 Fire Department.

Three nearby homes were in danger. Naomi Kingham's husband was on the roof trying to fight the flames with a water hose before firefighters arrived. Kingham's son lost his house to a fire several years ago and she knew she only had a few moments to grab important belongings.

"You know the devastation a fire can make so I just did what I could. I just stayed calm," said Kingham. "I went in and grabbed my fire proof box with all my important documents. I also grabbed 25 years worth of home movies and pictures I recently put on a DVD."  

More than five departments responded to the call. Extra water was brought in to fight the blaze and the Agriculture and Forestry Department bulldozed a perimeter of fire lanes to prevent the fire from jumping. Working in shifts, you would think the heat would be their biggest problem.

"Actually it's the wind we are worried about. The wind can change at any time and push the fire back on us and just move it around and push it into another area and past the fire breaks and that's really the worst part," said Trahan.  

Of course the closer you get visibility becomes more of a problem. That's why they have help from up above. Both the Civil Air Patrol and Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's planes are helping narrow the scope of the fire. The Sheriff's Office Cessna is equipped with a FLIR camera and sends back live aerial views. It's the first time they've used it in a fire situation. Calcasieu OEP Director Dick Gremillion explains it also has infrared capabilities.

"It's a tremendous capability, particularly for a fire like this. We're out here in a wood setting where you can't really see very far. The roads are kind of few and far between. With that eye in the sky there we can actually see if they are getting to the fire in the proper place and they can also tell us if any of the personnel on the ground are near any danger areas or in danger of being over run by fire," said Gremillion.  

With the situation under control Kingham and her family are relying on the same faith that got them through Hurricane Rita.

"I said God... If you can station your angels around the house and protect it during a hurricane you can protect it now from the fire. God is in control," said Kingham.  

Still no word on what caused the fire. Gremillion said a state fire ban remains in effect and urges people to use common sense if they need to burn during these dry conditions and check with their local fire departments before burning.

[View a slideshow of the damage]

Stations responding to the fire:
Beauregard District 2 (multiple stations)
Ward 1
Ward 2
Houston River
Ward 6
Lake Charles 
Calcasieu Homeland Security 
Civil Air Patrol/CPSO from skies with a plane
Acadian Ambulance also on scene as a precaution.

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