USA — State and federal firefighters, along with aerial crews, are battling a major wildfire in Natchitoches Parish that has destroyed 10 residences, officials said.
Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain said wildland firefighting crews from the department are battling the blaze near Ashland and Creston. The fire “consumed” 10 residences and several out buildings in the area on Friday, a department news release said.
The fire is being fanned by a headwind generated by Tropical Storm Lee. Approximately 400 acres of wildland was burned by 6 p.m. Friday, and no rainfall associated with Lee had fallen in the area. The fire was reported to the Natchitoches LDAF office about 1:45 p.m.
Natchitoches Parish is enduring “extreme” drought conditions, according to the United States Drought Monitor.
Strain said nine LDAF and three U.S. Forest Service crews are on the scene and establishing firelines. A crew is composed of a bulldozer, an operator and a ground crew member called a “swamper.”
In addition to the two LDAF crews from Natchitoches Parish, additional crews from Winn, Jackson, Bienville, LaSalle (two crews), Red River (two crews) and Evangeline (two crews) parishes were called in immediately, the LDAF news release said.
Gov. Bobby Jindal authorized two Louisiana National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and crews to assist in fighting the fire.
“We are going to provide the resources necessary to put this fire out as quickly as possible and help get our people and property out of harm’s way,” Jindal said.
Three LDAF aircraft are providing aerial support while a Forest Service Type 3 helicopter equipped with a “Bambi bucket” is dropping water on the fire. Two single-engine air tankers from Texas dropped a load of fire retardant on the fire around 7 p.m.
Firefighting crews will be engaged on the scene until the fire is contained.
“We’re throwing everything we’ve got and everything we can get our hands on at this fire,” Strain said.
Strain said a unified command has been established, and the LDAF is coordinating efforts between the Forest Service, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, local fire departments, Louisiana National Guard, and the Natchitoches and Winn parish offices of Emergency Preparedness.
The LDAF unified command post is located at the corner of Morgan Quick Road and Weaver Cemetery Road. Strain asked that motorists stay out of the area.
“There may be smoke on the road that will hinder visibility, and like any fire, this fire can be unpredictable,” Strain said. “A number of emergency vehicles will also be on the road.”