Giant Lake Fire Keeps on Burning

Giant Lake Fire Keeps on Burning

09 Dezember 2010

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USA — A blaze touched off by a trash fire has been smoldering for two months — with occasional flareups — in the bed of a twisting, 14-mile-long lake drawn down as part of northwestern Louisiana’s fight against an invasive water fern.

It started Labor Day weekend and spread for miles along the edge of narrow Lake Bistineau. It burrowed under the lakebed, rich with layers of plant debris, erupting in new spots days or weeks after crews put out what they could see.

“There’s still hot spots where it’s burning the ground at the middle,” said Deputy Chief Ryan Foster of the South Bossier Fire District.

The only way to put out the fire for good is to refill the lake, said Sandy Davis, head of the Caddo-Bossier Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness. But he said that would take a lot of rain.

Ron Stone, who lives on the lake, said he learned about the fire when a neighbor called him.
“He said, ‘You might want to get your dogs in. The lake is on fire.’ I ran out there and sure enough, it was burning: really coming on strong,” Stone said.

Lake Bistineau usually covers 17,500 acres, but about half the lakebed was exposed when drought conditions followed a release of lake water. Grasses grew high — Stone estimates 5 to 6 feet — then drought turned the grass to a brown straw mat. Fire raced across it.

“There wasn’t enough water in the world to put it out,” Stone said. About 1,200 acres of the lakebed burned in three fires, with 1,000 acres of that in a single blaze.

Conditions for the fire were created by the fight against herbicide-resistant giant salvinia, a rootless fern imported from South America to decorate aquariums. The invasive plant covered nearly half of Lake Bistineau last year.

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