Flashback Friday: Do You Remember When Lake Bistineau Caught on Fire?
Yesterday afternoon I was visiting with our young Jay Whatley and I remarked how dry the area is and that it really reminded me of the year that Lake Bistineau caught on fire.
That’s when his eyes got as big as saucers and he looked at me like I had three heads. “Wait a minute, Lake Bistineau caught on fire?”, he said.
I guess it sounded much like one of those “Only in Louisiana” jokes, “Only in Louisiana” can it get so hot that your lake catches on fire, but it certainly happened and there was nothing humorous about the fire in the lake bed of Lake Bistineau that ignited on Labor Day weekend in 2010.
I don’t recall there were any houses burned in the fire, or of any injuries, but I do know that vast amounts of trees were consumed and there were several boat houses lost.
Of course, Jay is only 30 years old and this was 11 years ago, so it occurred to me that he and anyone else that age or younger, might not remember this happening and for those just hearing of this, I’m sure the burning (pardon the pun) question is, “How does a lake catch on fire?”
The fire is reported to have begun that Labor Day weekend when a trash fire got out of control and due to the lack of rain in the area, the fire became a constant battle for several weeks.
The lake had been drawn down, as it is during this time each year, in the constant battle with the invasive aquatic vegetation, salvinia.
It was that dried and dead vegetation that fueled the fire that was not just burning trees and anything in its path on the surface of the lake bed, but it burned under the surface for acres.
That caused the most frustration to firefighters like my good friend Jamie Douglas, with South Bossier Fire District #2, who battled the fire for weeks. He says, "It was just exhausting and even after a couple weeks, we just couldn't seem to beat it. It was like the fire would never go out."
Jamie continues, "We had firefighters from Bossier Parish, Webster Parish and Bienville Parish on this one. We worked shifts of like 4 to 6 hours each and just when we would think we had it beat, it would pop up under a boat house a couple hundred yards away and by the time we could get moved over, the boat house was a total loss."
At one point, the fire even threatened the renown Wilson’s Steak and Seafood. The dead, fire scorched trees in the area today, are a testament to just how bad the situation really was.
Let’s just hope I’m wrong about how dry it is now and we never repeat this horrific event.
Just check out the photos Jamie sent me, and you'll see why we don't want any more of this.