The largest wildfire to ever burn in the state of Louisiana was the result of arson, officials have determined.
Investigators with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry's (LDAF) Enforcement Division shared the finding Saturday and asked for the public's help in finding the person who deliberately caused the Tiger Island Fire, with the Louisiana Forestry Association even offering a reward of up to $2,000 cash for any information that could lead to an arrest or conviction.
The Tiger Island Fire is one of multiple wildfires to erupt in Beauregard Parish the past few weeks, and it's just 57% contained as of Monday.
Since it erupted on Aug. 22 in a wooded pine plantation, the fire has burned more than 31,000 forested acres and caused "devastating damage" to more than 20 homes and structures east of Merryville, which is about five miles away from the Texas state line. The rural town of 1,200 was forced to evacuate Thursday, but orders have since been lifted.
So far this year, wildfires have burned 60,000 acres across Louisiana, which is seeing extremely dry and hot weather recently. Just this month, there have been 600 wildfires in the state, and officials expect a dry September will create even more.
During a news conference Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said climate change may be making this increase in wildfires the "new normal," as this type of extreme weather persists.
Officials also said heavy residual fuels from Hurricane Laura, which hit both Louisiana and Texas in 2020, are contributing to the fire's behavior, but residents who aren't adhering to the statewide burn ban aren't helping reduce fire risk.
The burn ban was declared in August and includes any type of open flame outdoors. Local and state law enforcement agencies have been giving citations and arresting individuals who don't comply, LDAF said, with more than 20 citations issued Monday for violations.
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