Drought-like conditions, firefighters on alert for grass fires

(Source: MGN Online)
(Source: MGN Online)

CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) - Many of us are already seeing patches of brown grass in our yards and its part of the drought-like conditions we've been experiencing here in Southwest Louisiana.

For firefighters, it means they're keeping a watchful eye on grass fires.

"We haven't seen a whole lot at the beginning of the season so far, but it is slowly picking up," said Daniel Duhon, Carlyss Fire Department Captain.

Every year firefighters tackle thousands of wildfires across the country. In Carlyss, firefighters say they start to keep an eye out for grass fires as the weather gets warmer.

And while firefighters here say they haven't seen an increase in grass fires yet, they are on high alert.

"The dry weather poses a challenge due to it dries out the grass a lot quicker, combined with the high winds it will cause the fire to spread a lot quicker," added Duhon.

While no parish in Louisiana is under a burn ban, Lake Charles Fire Prevention Chief Wayne Rigmaiden says that could change.

"But they can occur when we run through some droughts," said Rigmaiden.

The last time Lake Charles has seen at least an inch of rain was in February.

Today, we're nearly 9 inches below normal rainfall for the year.

"If the dry weather persists, if we don't get any more rain here in the future, it could happen," said Duhon.

But even before a burn ban is issued, firefighters make sure they're prepared.

Here at Carlyss, they even have what they call a 'brush buggy', which helps them get to grass fires.

"We are limited to where we can go with the bigger trucks so this helps us," said Carlyss Fire Chief James Stanley.

While they only use it about a half dozen times a year, it's important to have in areas like Carlyss.

"A large area that we cover is open fields and grassy areas, we tend to run a lot more grass fires and brush fires versus a structure fire," said Stanley.

But even though preparation is key firefighters say grass fire prevention is the best way to go.

Fire officials had a number of grass fire prevention tips from not throwing cigarette butts outside, to making sure fire pit and BBQ coals are cool before discarding.

Additional grass fire prevention tips here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/kisatchie/home/?cid=fsbdev3_024701