DOYLINE — Roughly two years ago, Lake Bistineau’s lakebed burned for 38 consecutive days. John Stanley wants to be sure that doesn’t happen again.
Stanley, Webster Parish Homeland Security director and police jury president Jim Bonsall have signed off on a burn ban along the lakebed in Webster Parish. The ban takes effect immediately and prohibits campfires, trash fires and any other open flame burning.
Stanley said the ban has been issued as a result of fires which broke out along the lakebed southeast of Westwood Camp on the Doyline side of Bistineau over the weekend.
“Individuals go out there and ride their off-road vehicles, and sometimes just riding isn’t enough for some of them,” Stanley said. “They get off perhaps to camp out, build a fire, then go away and leave the fire unattended. They build a fire in the lake bed thinking it will go out, but it ignites underground.”
Firefighters tackled the fire Sunday afternoon and were on scene until after dark putting out the hot spots. But by the very nature of what’s burning and the location, the fires can’t be extinguished completely and it’s difficult to get water to the site, Stanley said.
“There’s an accumulation of debris on the lake bottom … vegetation is from 18- to 24-inches deep,” he said. “This is what we faced two years ago. The vegetation burned, then a hot spot would flare and the Spanish moss hanging from the cypress would ignite and it would take off across a wider area.”
Stanley said the fires burning now are located on a wooded island area between two sloughs. The area is located about a half mile off Willis Fields Road south of Doyline. Water to combat the fires Sunday was hauled in by firefighters using four-wheelers, he pointed out.
“It is just about impossible to get any kind of fire fighting equipment down here,” Stanley said. “That’s what makes it so difficult to extinguish these fires. We just need to control what’s burning now and put the ban in place to help prevent other outbreaks.”
Last time the lakebed burned, camps along the exposed areas were in danger. Stanley said this time, he hopes to get a head start on preventing the fires from spreading.
“We’re getting a jump on preventing it from spreading. We walked a bulldozer out on the lake bed and cut a fire line on the south end of the area that’s been burning,” he said. “There’s a pretty large area around here that burned last time so we believe that will help.”
Stanley and crews will be checking on the area and counting on information from landowners to prevent more fires.
“We hope people who may be going out there with their ATVs or four-wheel drives will exercise a lot of caution,” he said. “If a wind comes up and there’s a flare-up, fires can spread very quickly through the moss-covered trees. And certainly, we want the public’s help with the burn ban.”