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LDAF fire fighting crews battling major fire in NE Natchitoches Parish

September 2, 2011

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) wildland firefighting crews are battling a major wildfire near the Natchitoches Parish communities of Ashland and Creston that has consumed ten residences and several out buildings in the area.
The fire is being fanned by a headwind generated by Tropical Storm Lee.  Approximately 400 acres of wildland was burned by 6 p.m. No rainfall associated with TS Lee is falling 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 (USFS) crews are on the scene and establishing firelines.  A crew is comprised of a bulldozer, an operator and a ground crewmember 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) were called in immediately.
Three LDAF aircraft are providing aerial support while a USFS Type 3 helicopter equipped with a Bambi bucket is dropping water on the fire.
Two single engine air tankers (SEATS) from Texas dropped a load of fire retardant on the fire around 7 p.m. A typical SEAT is a plane used in aerial application (crop dusting) and can drop about 300 gallons of fire retardant at one time, then return to base and reload.
Strain said two Louisiana National Guard Blackhawk helicopters with Bambi buckets will be deployed to the area in the morning if necessary.
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 USFS, the State Fire Marshall, local fire departments, Louisiana National Guard, and the Natchitoches and Winn parish offices of emergency preparedness.
Strain said LDAF forestry investigators are also on the scene.
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.”