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Motorists in Livingston Parish faced with heavy smoke and traffic delays during 10-acre grass fire

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ALBANY - Nearly ten acres of land in Livingston Parish was charred in a fire on Sunday, one of five reported wildfires around the state.

The fire moved along the side of I-12, shrouding the highway in smoke and causing traffic delays. 

Five fire departments were eventually involved in extinguishing it, according to the Albany Police Department's Facebook page.

Mike Strain, commissioner of agriculture and forestry, said flames spread easily because of dry, windy conditions over the weekend.

Investigators believe Sunday's fire in Albany started with a burning debris pile. If the person who started the fire can be identified, criminal charges are possible, Strain said.

"We have a timber enforcement division which has arson investigators. We work diligently to find those persons responsible," Strain said.

When a person starts a fire on their own land and it spreads to adjacent properties, the person could be charged with fire-raising by negligence, Strain said. Intentionally setting a fire to someone else's property is arson.

"Use good judgement and don't light that match when it's dry and there's high winds. If you do decide to light that match, stay with your debris pile until it is completely out," Strain said.

Extended stretches of fire-friendly weather have led to record numbers of these kinds of fires.

"It's been a very abnormal year and we had the most intense wildfire season in the history of this state," Strain said.

In 2021, Louisiana had 453 wildfires.

The next year, it was 1,447. In 2023, the number of wildfires dropped slightly to 1,412.

So far this year, the state has had 287.

Strain said most wildfires happen on weekends because people have more free time on days they don't work. 

Fire departments around the state handled 120 fire the weekend of Feb. 23. The next Monday, there were only four.

"The weather patterns didn't change, but people went back to work," Strain said.

Never leave outdoor fires unattended, Strain said, and never use flammable liquids to promote burning.

More information about determining if weather conditions are favorable for outdoor burning is available here.

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