City fire at Lake Vista Nature Preserve burns around the clock

Published 12:48 pm Monday, May 20, 2024

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On Wednesday, May 8, I was alerted to a fire being left unattended at Lake Vista Nature Preserve on the north side of Highway 10 at the eastern limit of the city, headed toward Mississippi. The fire site is approximately 200 yards northeast of the VA plot at Ponemah cemetery, behind an unmarked locked gate. It was visible from the highway, and the gate was open when I arrived there at approximately 4 PM.

The area is owned by the city and officially designated as a nature preserve. Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality regulations state that in parishes with a population under 90 thousand, burning within city limits is only allowed by permit, and the fires must be attended at all times, only being allowed to burn between 8 AM and 5 PM. A records request with LDEQ revealed that the city of Bogalusa has not applied for or been granted such a permit.

The fire was observed burning continuously from May 8 until May 12, when it was put out by heavy rainfall that evening. Public works employees added wood and limbs to the fire daily, and each evening left it unattended through the night. The blaze could be seen from the highway after nightfall.

Mayor Truong stated that they have permission from the fire department to do “controlled burns” at Lake Vista, and blamed citizens for the trash that was observed there. This included chain link fencing and posts, concrete, and loose refuse. Residents near the Nature Preserve issued the initial complaint, and it seems that the fire was lit at least several days before I observed it personally.

The local fire department does not have the authority to override LDEQ regulations, although citizens are typically allowed to burn small amounts of leaves and wood within city limits, provided they use a burn barrel and have a water source nearby to extinguish the flames as necessary. When asked about the burn site on Highway 10, the fire department stated that they were not aware of it.