Cenla Fire Crew Prepared for Wildfires - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

Cenla Fire Crew Prepared for Wildfires

KISATCHIE NATIONAL FOREST (KALB News Channel 5)- It's summertime, which means it's hot and dry throughout much of the country. As a result, wildfires have been popping up in several states over the past few weeks, including one in Arizona last week that took the lives of 19 firefighters. News Channel 5's Rachael Penton decided to speak to some members of the Cenla fire crew to find out how they prepare for wildfires here in Louisiana.

On October 12, 2010 one of the biggest wildfires to ever occur in Central Louisiana began...the Wrangler Wildfire.

"Two-thousand ten was a drought year so it took about two weeks to contain it and we watched it for another 30 to 60 days," says Michael Dawson, the Kisatchie District Ranger.

"The wildfire started here in the Kisatchie Ranger District due to a lightning strike."

Local crews with Kisatchie National Forest teamed up with fire crews that came to help from across the country to battle the 4,000 acre fire.

"We had up to around 200 people here. Some of those are in support positions that are helping support the people who are actually on the ground fighting the fire," says Steven Staples, District Assistant Fire Manager.

Rangers say that about 100 wildfires occur each year throughout the forest.

"Weather, terrain, and fuels all come together to affect fire behavior and in our case we had very dry conditions, very steep terrain, and we had thunderstorms that would happen with downdrafts that would drive the fire different places," adds Dawson.

So the local crew works year round, performing prescribed burns to get rid of any extra fuels like dead plants in the forest, and by keeping an eye out for anything that could spark a fire.

"Lot's of recreational users, campfires. Stuff like that we'll watch out for," says Staples.

They can't always prevent what nature may bring their way, but the crew out at Kisatchie National Forest is prepared to fight these fires like the Wrangler Wildfire as efficiently and as safely as possible.

"You always use your best judgement to put resources and people and equipment where you think you can be the most effective, knowing how fires can behave," adds Dawson.

Rangers say that they try to perform prescribed burns on the more than 600,000 acres of forest land every three to five years.

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