Wildfire prompts evacuations in Bienville Parish

Wildfire prompts evacuations in Bienville Parish

BIENVILLE PARISH, LA (KSLA) - Louisiana state police are urging motorists to stay clear of areas of Bienville Parish affected by a series of woods fires Tuesday.

The blazes that started Tuesday afternoon have claimed more than 1,400 acres of land and threatened homes near Web Loftin Road in the Fryeburg community just south of Heflin, authorities say.

The fires also threatened a portion of the Louisiana Southern Railroad track about 25 miles east of Fryeburg in the Liberty Hill community near Louisiana Highway 508 and west of Louisiana Highway 155. Two of those fires have been extinguished, but one was still burning late Tuesday night near the track and a Louisiana Southern Raiload train that was forced to stop due to the fires, said Trooper First Class Matt Harris, of Louisiana State Police.

That train has 47 cars, one of which is a tanker that contains hazardous materials. Louisiana state police hazardous materials technicians were working with railway personnel late Tuesday night to move the train to the track's intersection with Poole Road, about 8 miles northwest of where the train stopped. Haz-mat personnel wanted the train moved to keep the tanker car from being heated, which could cause the material inside to become volatile.

As of Tuesday night, there had been no injuries, no road closures and no evacuations because of the train situation.

"We will continue to assist local agencies throughout the entirety of this event and do whatever deemed necessary to maintain public safety," said Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of Louisiana state police.

Fire crews in Bienville Parish also are monitoring other smoldering hot spots Wednesday morning left by a grass fire that started Tuesday afternoon near Shepherd Town Road and spread into Webster Parish near Mims Grocery Road. Residents of that area who were evacuated have been allowed back in their homes.

Webster Sheriff Gary Sexton says the fire reached the Lake Bistineau lake bed and the majority of the fire was in Bienville Parish. Webster sheriff's deputies say there is no more activity in their parish at this time, but crews have been assisting in Bienville Parish.

Officials say that fire was contained Tuesday but it breached the barricades.

Twenty-fire to 30 homes were in danger, and deputies were keeping in contact with residents of the area about the situation. Just before 5 p.m. Tuesday, authorities in Bienville Parish announced evacuations in the area of Louisiana Highway 516 at Garrett Road. Since then, residents have been allowed to return.

"They were coming through blowing horns, telling everybody they had to leave," said Wanda Smith, one of the residents forced from their homes. "I was kind of reluctant. But, eventually, I talked to one of the fire marshals; he said it was a mandatory evacuation."

Bossier, Red River, Webster and Bienville parishes are trying to gain control of the blaze, the smoke from which can be seen on radar.

Authorities say several hundred acres have burned in the area.

Webster sheriff's deputies say no homes in their parish have been evacuated at this time.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Bistineau Baptist Church opened as a reception shelter for displaced residents in the Fryeburg area for several hours Tuesday evening. Church officials say about 25 people sought refuge at the church. Around 9 p.m., church officials say they were told by Bienville Parish fire officials that all of the fires were out and residents could go back to their homes.

Volunteers with the Northwest Louisiana chapter of the American Red Cross are providing canteen service to firefighters and other responders. "Red Cross volunteers have come together to support our firefighters battling these fires and to care for our neighbors affected by them," said Michelle Davison, the chapter's executive director.

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