LOUISIANA, La. (KLFY)– Gov. John Bel Edwards strongly encourages everyone to adhere to the current statewide burn ban with Louisiana’s ongoing drought and extreme heat conditions.

Edwards declared a state of emergency Monday due to the extremely high temperatures. The Louisiana State Fire Marshal and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture also issued a statewide burn ban.

As of Aug. 17, there have been more than 260 wildfires that have either damaged or destroyed thousands of acres of land and property, according to Edwards.

“Everyone should take these dangerously high temperatures seriously,” Edwards said. “The extreme heat has already caused a high number of deaths and sent even more people to the hospital. In addition, our state is experiencing very dry weather, which coupled with the heat has produced a number of wildfires. So far, there has not been a loss of life because of the fires, but they have damaged and destroyed more than 3,500 acres of land and property. That is exactly why the burn ban is in place. I want to thank State Fire Marshal Dan Wallis and State Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain for the work they are doing to keep us safe, but we need everyone in communities statewide to pitch in and help. It is necessary for all of us to do our part to prevent any further problems from occurring. Please stay cool and hydrated. Also, follow the burn ban, and encourage your family, friends and neighbors to do the same.”

Burn ban violations could result in criminal and/or civil penalties.

“Firefighters from around the state are being worn thin as a result of responding to several illegal burn piles and brush fires, which are more frequently turning into larger wildfires because of the dangerous conditions,” Wallis said. “We are pleading with the public to cooperate with this burn ban and be considerate of the first responders who are put in increased danger in this heat every time they’re called to respond to a fire.”

“As a reminder, the statewide burn ban is still in effect due to dangerously dry and hot conditions,” Strain said. “This order has been in effect since 5:00 pm on August 7, and it will remain in effect until rescinded. A burn ban means no outdoor burning of any kind. If you have any questions pertaining to what constitutes an outdoor fire, check with your local fire department.”

Private burning is only allowed if permission is granted by the local fire departments or governments. Officials discourage using barbecue grills, fire pits and small campfires for recreational cooking purposes at this time, but they are allowed and not affected by the burn ban.