Although other parts of the country are facing drought conditions and the prospect of a bad wildfire season this year, Louisiana’s outlook is much better.
“So far, we’re predicting a normal year which is between 935 and 1,200 fires,” said Mike Strain, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
The forecast is based in part on looking at drought conditions around the state.
As of May 7, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that only a small section in the northwestern part of the state is “abnormally dry.” For 93 percent of the state, there are no drought conditions.
It will be nothing like 2011, when large sections of Louisiana were in drought conditions, Strain said.
“It was incredible, we would have anywhere from 10 to 20 fires on the weekends,” Strain said.
In 2012, Louisiana experienced 935 wildfires with the main causes being debris burning that got out of hand and arson. So far this year, 499 wildfires have been reported, Strain said, with debris burning and arson again being the top two causes.
Part of the solution is educating people about debris burning and making sure people know when burning is prohibited in a certain area because of the fire risk.
“We’re doing as much public awareness that we can,” Strain said.
Most states west of the Mississippi River show some degree of drought and that could lead to a challenging wildfire season, according to federal officials.
Authorities with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Interior, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others held a telephone conference called press conference Monday to provide the nationwide wildfire forecast.
“We are facing another dangerous fire season,” said Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Department of the Interior.
More precipitation on the East Coast has meant fewer fires in those areas in the early season, but as the year progresses the fire danger will shift to the Pacific Coast as well as Idaho and Montana.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that as of May 3 there have been 13,115 fires nationwide that burnt 153,000 acres. That’s down about 5,000 fires from last year, he said, but shouldn’t be seen as an indication this will be a quieter fire year, he said.
The serious drought of 2012 continues for many areas of the country, he said.
“So we’re preparing for and expecting a challenging season,” he said.
More information on how to keep homes safe in areas where fires are possible is available at Fire Adapted Community’s website www.fireadapted.org.