Bistineau lakebed fire under investigation

By Bonnie Culverhouse

Cause of a lake bed fire on Horseshoe Loop on Lake Bistineau is still under investigation.

Sibley Fire Chief Tommy Kelly, incident commander, said Monday the fire is under control but still being carefully watched.

“It’s just about going to have to be somebody that started the fire,” Kelly said. “But whether it was intentional or accidental is hard to say. When the lake is lowered due to the salvinia, people go out there and hunt and camp. It could’ve been a camp fire or somebody threw out a cigarette.”

If there is any evidence of intention, the chief said the Fire Marshal will be involved.

Kelly said after he received a call about the fire, he contacted Webster 911 around 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve to request aid from Doyline’s Fire District 3, Minden Fire Department’s side-by-side, Homeland Security and La. Dept. of Agriculture and Forestry.

Kelly also requested drone assistance from Webster Fire District 7 in Dixie Inn. Brian Williams, Director of the Webster Parish Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness, said the Fire District 7 drone was used to get an aerial view of the fire, but due to the windy conditions the drone was quickly grounded. 

“The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry was contacted to get the plane in the air but due to the time of day, it was not available,” Williams said. “The fire departments were making progress containing the fire, so we contacted the Desoto Parish Sheriff’s Office to ask for assistance from their Aviation Division. “

Williams said within 45 minutes the helicopter arrived on scene. He said their quick arrival helped with the decision-making process.

“With Homeland Security in contact with fire units on the ground, two areas of concern were identified and crews dispatched,” Williams said. “The fire appeared to be approximately 150-200 acres and was contained within the fire line and crews were sent home to their families for Christmas Eve.”

Crews from Fire District 3 were dispatched at 9:30 p.m. to the 500 block of Tadpole Road for a burning tree on the lakebed that fell across the fire line. Crews responded with assistance from Minden Fire Department again with the side-by-side and contained the fire quickly. 

Williams said on Christmas day, Sibley Fire Department members continued to check the perimeter every couple of hours. Also, around noon the same day the Department of Agriculture and Forestry flew the area and the fire appeared to be contained from their view. 

An additional flyover took place Monday to check the fire again and provide a more definite number of acres burned. 

“When the plane flies again, they will download the perimeter on GPS,” Kelly said. “I’m guessing it’s between 200 and 300 acres.”

Kelly said the “leading edge” of the fire is out and only trees continue to burn.

“We still have about 200 trees burning out in the lake, but you can’t get to them,” he said. “Even if you tried to go out there in an all-terrain vehicle, you’d get stuck.”

The trees will eventually burn out, and as long as one doesn’t fall across the containment line again, the fire will not spread, he said, adding that is the case as long as the weather cooperates and winds do not spread embers.

Bayou Dorcheat serves as the fire line on the opposite side. Kelly planned to go by water Monday and check it.

At one time during the fire, Kelly said he had four side-by-sides and seven fire trucks positioned among houses on Horseshoe Loop.

“I was staging a fire truck about every other house,” Kelly said. “That way, if the fire got into their back yard, there would be somebody there to put it out.”

He added firefighters were at the scene seven hours on the first day.

“If you’re at anything seven hours, and nobody lost a structure, and everybody went home safe, it’s a good day,” he said.

Williams said a discussion with Webster Parish Police Jury members, scheduled for today (Tuesday, December 28), would likely result in a burn ban for the Webster side of the lake. Bossier Parish has already issued one for its side.

“We hope the rain this week will help completely extinguish the current fire to prevent another long lasting fire from 2010,” Williams said. “Again, due to the quick actions by local fire departments this fire was contained quickly and will continue to be monitored.”