AR Briefly

Arkansas firefighters deployed to Louisiana to help with wildfire suppression efforts

By: - September 20, 2023 3:56 pm
large plume of smoke

A large plume of smoke from the Tiger Island Fire rises from forestland near Merryville in Beauregard Parish on Aug. 23, 2023. (Jenn Finley/La. Dept. of Agriculture and Forestry)

Six wildland firefighters from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division will assist with Louisiana’s Tiger Island Fire for a two-week period beginning today.

Investigators believe the wildfire, which started on Aug. 22 and has affected more than 31,000 acres, is the result of arson, according to the Louisiana lluminator. The fire was 84% contained as of Wednesday morning.

Louisiana’s largest wildfire blamed on arson

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders authorized the deployment of the Arkansas firefighters, who are being mobilized as part of the South Central Interstate Forest Fire Protection Compact, which enables participating forestry agencies to send resources and personnel across state lines to assist with wildfire suppression, according to a press release.

The primary role of the crew will be to check and maintain existing firebreaks. The Forestry Division will also send trucks and ATVs with water tanks to assist with response efforts.

Sanders previously authorized the Department of Agriculture to send a division supervisor to oversee several fire suppression crews assigned to the Tiger Island Fire from Sept. 8-23. Sanders also authorized two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the Arkansas National Guard’s 77th Theater Aviation Brigade to provide assistance from Aug. 31-Sept. 7.

Southern states often rely entirely on outside help for airborne assistance to fight wildfires, according to the Illuminator. Louisiana’s agriculture commissioner plans to ask the legislature for money to buy more firefighting equipment next year, including a tanker airplane that can drop water on fires.

A Department of Agriculture spokesperson told the Illuminator that Arkansas has 10 single-engine, fixed-wing aircraft, mostly Cessna 182s, for aerial fire detection and surveillance. The fleet’s two Aero Commander 500s are used as air attack platforms, which direct air tankers that are contracted through private vendors.

Approximately 40,000 acres of wildland fire have impacted Louisiana and a third of the state continues to experience extreme drought conditions, according to the press release.


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Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is a multimedia journalist who has reported since 2007 on a wide range of topics, including politics, health, education, immigration and the arts for NPR affiliates, print publications and digital platforms. A University of Arkansas alumna, she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and a master’s degree in documentary film.