Timber felled by hurricanes burn at Sam Houston Jones State Park

VIDEO: Heavy smoke in Moss Bluff due to controlled burn

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - One hundred acres of trees felled by last fall’s hurricanes burned Monday at Sam Houston Jones State Park when a controlled burn jumped out of control.

Smoke and the unmistakable smell of fire have been hanging around Moss Bluff since Monday. Officials with Sam Houston Jones State Park say a controlled burn, which started Monday, expanded due to wind.

No structures or lives were ever in any danger but residents say it did put them on edge.

”This morning as I was coming from mass, I noticed fire on Southerland Rd. and that’s kind of scary because my house is only 3 houses from Southerland Road,” said Julayne Maher.

Numerous Moss Bluff residents reported seeing flames and heavy smoke in the area.

Lousiana State Park Deputy Assistant Secretary Clifford Melius says officials were burning about 100 acres worth of vegetation as part of restoration efforts.

”So, when this fire did light and it went through it did get up pretty high and they did see a lot of smoke but it is contained,” said Melius.” ”It did cross one spot that we weren’t expecting and they’ve been over there making sure it’s contained but it’s been good...not the prettiest. In the long term, it’s going to be a great thing for Sam Houston Jones State Park.”

Crews have been monitoring the blaze which will ultimately put Sam Houston Jones State Park on a path to reopening.

The 1,000-acre park was filled with longleaf pine trees prior to hurricanes Laura and Delta, however, the hurricanes took most of those down.

Officials say the devastation left behind at the park from Hurricane Laura is much similar to what other state parks experienced after Hurricane Katrina.

“The storm pretty much laid the whole thing down,” said Brandon Buras, assistant secretary with Louisiana State Parks.

“The devastation here is not something that is going to be cleaned up overnight,” Melius said.

He said only about 5 to 10 pine trees per acre survived the hurricanes.

State parks contracted with a logging company to remove the felled trees. The rest of the limbs were separated into burn piles.

Buras said state parks had a burn permit for Monday, but one of the burn piles jumped out of control and lit an area where logging had not yet commenced. He said the wind was not high when they began burning Monday, but came up quickly.

Local residents say notification of future burns should be permitted.

”I think it would have been nice to have notification because then you’re not worried about what it is...we were thinking it was a chemical fire from one of the plants,” said Maher.

Crews with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry were able to contain the fire overnight and no structures were lost.

“Typically when we do these (burns), we try to make it where it doesn’t blow into town,” said Melius. “With the burn, we’ll be able to reintroduce longleaf pine to some of these areas where they weren’t in the park anymore.”

At this hour, the burn is 100 percent contained. Residents may still see some smoke in the area up for the next two days.

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