NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Agents with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry are weighing in on the dangers of wildfires and discussing the fines for setting fires during a statewide burn ban.
“It gets out in the grass, and it will outrun you. You aren’t going to be able to stop it. Then it becomes a wildfire,” Dr. Mike Strain with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry said.
Across Louisiana, from Friday to Sunday, there have been 45 fires, with 607 acres burned. Since Aug. 1, there have been 166 fires with 1,800 acres burned. The dry weather hasn’t helped.
“If you look at the weather patterns across the state, there’s very little chance of rain, all the way until the end of the month,” he said.
Arsonists are also believed to be the cause of two recent wildfires, one in Washington Parish at a campsite, where Louisiana Agriculture agents arrested 34-year-old Kenneth Beaubouef.
The other blaze in Tangipahoa Parish on Genessee Road near Highway 1056 is still being investigated.
“Depending on whether or not it was intentional, criminal, or negligence, that’s how it’s dealt with. So, we make the charges, then it goes to district attorney’s office,” Strain said.
When burn bans are in effect like they are now, violators with civil citations must pay up to $250 in fines. If it is criminal, the violator could face a $500 fine and up to six months in jail. That doesn’t include restitution for loss of property.
“If you look at the fire in Washington Parish, there’s more than $350,000 in damages, so there, the judges would order restitution,” Strain said.
While most interstate fires start with cigarette butts or metal sparking off trucks, crop farmers need to be extra careful that their machinery doesn’t set off sparks.
“The main thing is don’t burn anything. Be very careful with what you do,” he said.