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Record-setting wildfires engulf Louisiana communities

An active blaze known as the Tiger Island Fire, the largest wildfire in Louisiana’s recorded history, continues to wreak havoc on the southwestern part of the state and is still growing, officials say.

Over 33,000 acres have already burned in southwestern Louisiana, fed by unusual levels of drought and heat, and the blaze was only 50% contained as of Tuesday morning.

In the past month, roughly 600 wildfires in the state were detected, and officials say they expect the number to grow in the upcoming weeks.

“This is not done. We expect a dry September. So we got to be prepared for this and all work together until the rain comes … and then we can get back to life,” Mike Strain, the commissioner for Louisiana’s Department of Agriculture and Forestry, said Tuesday.

The fire reportedly doubled in size over the weekend and continues to plague rural communities.

The entire town of Merryville, located just east of the Texas border with a population of 1,200, was forced to evacuate. So far, 20 buildings in the town including barns and homes have been either damaged or destroyed.

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Officials claim that much of the damage could have been avoided had Louisiana residents followed the statewide burn ban which was put into place back in August.

In the region where the Tiger Island Fire continues to rage, over 20 citations were handed out Monday to those who violated the ban, according to Gov. John Bel Edwards.

“There simply is not an excuse to be burning anything outside right now,” he said Tuesday.

Edwards added that the wildfires might be the “new normal” in Louisiana, due to climate change fueled by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and other agricultural practices.

About half of the state has experienced “extreme” or “exceptional” drought this year in addition to triple-digit temperatures this summer, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Edwards declared a state of emergency for Louisiana earlier this month, saying that he would invest more funds, effort and personnel to combat the rising problem of wildfires in the future.

With News Wire Services

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