A rare uncontrollable wildfire in Louisiana has forced nearly 1,000 residents to evacuate the town of Merryville in the township of Beauregard near the Texas state line.
“Out now!” wrote the Beauregard Township Sheriff’s Office on social media.
The Tiger Island fire started Thursday in the nearby town of Pitkin and spread quickly. Efforts to extinguish the blaze began using air and water tankers, but local firefighters were barred from entering the fire area because of the hazardous conditions, authorities said.
The fire remains uncontrolled and “fire containment has dropped from 85% to 50% today due to ever-changing wind conditions and dry vegetation conditions,” the sheriff’s office said Friday morning.
It is the largest wildfire observed in the state in recent years.
At least one house was destroyed. In the town of Singer, hundreds of people were left without power and residents were urged to conserve water.
Buses were waiting at City Hall to transport residents. The first Methodist Church in DeRidder was established as a place of refuge for evacuees.
It hasn’t said exactly how the fire started, but Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards urged residents to comply with the statewide fire ban that was put in place in early August given the exceptionally hot and dry conditions.
Edwards said, “Any fire started by people who do not comply with the fire ban could quickly escalate and even a small fire takes up firefighting resources that are needed to fight large wildfires like the one in the township of Beauregard.” Do yours Part. Don’t burn anything.”
The unusual wildfire event is another consequence of the record-breaking US heatwave fueled by the global climate crisis. Louisiana and the surrounding region are suffering from an extreme drought. At this time of year, residents usually have to brace for tropical storms and hurricanes.
At a news conference later Friday, Edwards said: “Nobody living in Louisiana has ever seen these conditions. It has never been so hot and so dry for so long.”
It also comes after a devastating Maui forest fire that destroyed most of the historic town of Lahaina and caused a death toll of 115, but is expected to rise significantly. Wildfires also raged across Canada, leading to the evacuation of cities and spreading acrid smoke across North America.
As of Monday, more than 357 wildfires have burned across Louisiana, burning thousands of acres of land and property, according to the governor’s office. The Tiger Island fire alone burned over 40,000 acres.
State Firefighter Daniel Wallis said, “Our heroes are pushed to the limit, so we’re grateful to our neighboring states and federal partners for being quick to act with the resources our team identifies and finds to keep up these valiant conservation efforts.” We’re proud of the Louisiana firefighters.”
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Louisiana, residents have been asked to leave within a two-mile radius of Marathon Petroleum’s Garyville refinery in the community of St. John the Baptist after a fire broke out in a storage tank at the giant oil facility. The facility is located in the heart of a highly polluted area of the state known locally as “Cancer Alley.”
The fire broke out around 7 a.m. and community officials and Marathon said the fire was contained at the refinery site. according to local TV station 4WWL.
After the fire was said to be contained, Bloomberg reported Marathon was in the process of closing the refinery, the third largest in the US. Later Friday afternoon, the evacuation order was lifted, a Marathon spokesman said confirmed to local news that the burning material was a liquid hydrocarbon mixture called naphtha.
Naphtha is listed as a hazardous chemical by the federal government an exposure limit of 400 micrograms per cubic meter over a period of 8 hours.
The Marathon spokesman said the company has not identified any external effects related to chemical burns.