Four older people have been found dead in grass fires since January, State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning tells us.
Because of this, Browning is warning Louisianans about the dangers of open burning following multiple deaths resulting from out-of-control burn piles.
“These are sad and stunning cases that should bring everyone pause,” said Browning, “Just because there is no burn ban in place in your area, that does not mean that conditions can’t change quicker than you can safely react.”
Two of those deaths came this week. On Monday, a body was found in a Webster Parish grass fire. Firefighters believe the body is that of the 80-year-old man who had lit a burn pile; they believe he was trying to put out the fire when he died.
Also on Monday, State Fire Marshal (SFM) deputies were notified of the discovery of an 89-year-old man's body. The body was found on his property after the man was reported missing Saturday. There also was a grass fire on his property, and his burned body was found near a pond, officials say.
Last week, SFM deputies were called to Topsy in Jeff Davis Parish, where a body was found on a burn pile that had spread along a fence line. Officials believe it is the body of the 67-year-old woman who lived next door to the location of the burn pile. That death, while possibly accidental, is still under investigation.
And, back in January, deputies investigated the death of a 78-year-old man in Anacoco, who disappeared while trying to control the spread of a burn pile. His body was found, burning, later.
“Don’t let the fact that you’re burning brush outside keep you from understanding smoke from that fire can and will overtake you if you’re not careful, “ said Browning, “Conducting open burning is a dangerous practice, no matter how frequently you do it, and it requires multiple safety steps to be taken every single time.”
Those safety tips include:
• Ensuring weather conditions, including wind speed and direction, are safe for burning
• Establishing a burn pile at least 75 feet from any structures
• Creating a 5-foot wet control line around the area
• Avoiding the use of flammable liquids to ignite a burn pile
• Remaining vigilant over the fire with a water source nearby at all times
• Alert a loved one or neighbor of your activities or conduct them with help
• If the fire does get out of control, call 911.
Also, remain aware of and compliant with any local restrictions on open burning and follow the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s guidance on legal open burning materials which can be found on the agency’s website deq.louisiana.gov