By Crystal Nix
Living just north of Singer, I had a personal interest in keeping updated with the Tiger Island Fire. I live about 13 miles south of the Singer area, on Hwy 27. On Monday, Aug. 21, a Red Flag Warning was issued by the state. I have a bag packed with my medications and important documents.
The dry brush and drought created the perfect conditions for the Tiger Island Fire. Though I’m unsure of how the fire started, one thing I do know is that that this fire will go down as one of the worst fires in Louisiana’s history.
On Tuesday night, Aug. 22, on Hwy 110 between Singer and Merryville, a wildfire started near a hunting camp. As of press time a week later, Tuesday, Aug. 29, approximately 33,000 acres have been consumed by this fire.
The supply of water was a major issue faced by local firefighters.
Numerous voluntary and mandatory evacuations were put into place by Beauregard Parish officials.
Because of the drought conditions, fires began springing up all over Beauregard and Calcasieu Parishes. The flames were reaching up to 300 feet, jumping roads and devouring the forests. By Thursday evening, Aug. 24, our area was looking forward to a chance of rain. However, lightning often comes with the rain.
The dry grass was perfect tinder to start a fire when lightning struck a tree in a field north of Phelps Correctional Center, starting a grass fire. The rapid response of firefighters had that blaze quickly extinguished.
Our firefighters are exhausted. Mutual aid was received from fire departments across the parish, state and also from other states. Our area has seen firetrucks, bulldozers, helicopters, planes dropping water scooped up from Toledo Bend and planes dropping fire retardant chemicals working around the clock fighting this raging inferno.
On Saturday, Aug. 26, there were five Army National Guard UH-60 Helicopters in rotation and one backup fighting area fires. They could drop approximately 500 to 700 gallons per trip onto the raging fires. In 348 trips alone, they dropped approximately 161,000 gallons of water on the nine area fires. This National Guard effort included 97 members to sustain Operations. In addition to the airborne resources, 14 Dozers had been active in plowing fire breaks to contain or at least deny areas to the fires. 16 larger dozers were joined by a CH-47 “Chinook” helicopter that has the capability of carrying five times more capacity to fight fires.
Animals were evacuated to the Beauregard Parish Fire Grounds, and when the fire danger included DeRidder area, officials asked to move the animals to the Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
As of Monday, Aug. 28, Calcasieu and Beauregard Parishes had received a much needed rain.
Our firefighters and emergency response personnel that have been on the scene are exhausted…but they are still bravely battling the fires. Volunteers have stepped up to feed and donate to area fire departments. We have had civilian volunteers plow fire lanes. Evacuations have been reported across the state, including Pirate’s Cove, Toledo Bend, Bancroft, Merryville, the Junction, Singer, and areas of Ragley and Longville.
Campfires, discarding lit cigarettes, debris burning, mufflers from vehicles, atvs and lawnmowers, along with intentional arson are among the top causes of wildfires. However, fires can be started from the sun or lightning when the conditions are right.
At press time, the Tiger Island Fire wass 50% contained which means we are by no means out of the woods yet! The statewide burn ban is still in effect. Unless this area gets significant sustained rain the potential for this fire to ramp back up is a real possiblity.
The sheriff’s office estimates about 22 structures have been destroyed by the fire. By the grace of God, we have had no loss of life.
We stand Louisiana Proud!