Tuesday, 30 August 2011 23:33

Mayor Landrieu Calls State Of Emergency For Marsh Fire Burning

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LandrieuToday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared a state of emergency, which allows the City and State to deploy all necessary assets relating to a marsh fire burning in New Orleans East.


The City has asked the Louisiana National Guard to deploy their nine helicopters with “bambi buckets” of water to abate the fire.   Four National Guard helicopters equipped with 500-gallon “bambi buckets” began dropping water today, with an additional five helicopters operational tomorrow.


“We are going to continue to lean forward and do what is effective to protect the health and well-being of our residents,” said Mayor Landrieu.


The primary marsh fire in New Orleans East is located approximately 1500 – 2000 yards north of Chef Menteur Highway and west of Bayou Sauvage.  The fire is feeding off of brush, including chinaberry and willow trees, along with compacted layers of peat moss under the marsh brush.  According to Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) and New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD), the primary fire is 100% contained because the area is surrounded by water on all four sides. It is believed that the fire started after a lightning storm on the evening of Wednesday, August 24. 


 Mayor Landrieu and Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry officials conducted a more detailed GIS aerial reconnaissance flight this morning.  According to the most up-to-date GIS data, it is estimated that approximately 65% or 1015 of the 1552.5-acre site has burned.  These latest estimates from the Department of Agriculture and Forestry are based on today’s reconnaissance flight using GIS technology.


During flyovers today, a secondary fire was spotted east of the primary marsh fire site. The secondary area of concern is about 24 acres of marshland and its cause is being investigated. The air drops will focus first on the 24-acre site because that area can be fought with air power most effectively.


Overall, the fires are in an isolated area and pose little to no threat to citizens or property. Any inconvenience or discomfort suffered from smoke is determined solely by which direction the wind blows.  


According to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the smoke is causing increased levels of particulate matter in the atmosphere.  The Air Quality Index indicates that particulate matter has been at the orange level, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups.  DEQ will monitor air quality every hour on the hour and publishes data on their website-- www.deq.louisiana.gov . A DEQ mobile testing unit has been monitoring air quality at Engine 36 in New Orleans East to complement testing at City Park, Kenner and Chalmette.


According to the National Weather Service, conditions for smoke to settle near the surface exist, which could reduce visibility in impacted areas.  The City advises motorists to exercise caution while driving during this time. The Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), the State Police, and the New Orleans Police Department are coordinating their efforts.


Residents wanting to report concerns or get information about the marsh fire should check www.nola.gov or call 3-1-1.


At this time, all NORDC outdoor practices have been cancelled until further notice.


Public schools remain open but have been encouraged to limit outdoor activities for children.


The U.S. Coast Guard closed Mississippi River traffic between mile marker 94.3 and 96.6 for a brief period due to limited visibility, but river traffic has been reopened. The Algiers Ferry also stopped running briefly, and has now been reopened as well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and DEQ:


Smoke may cause you to cough. It can cause shortness of breath or tightness in the chest. It also can sting your eyes, nose, or throat.


These problems can begin a very short time after you breathe the smoke. You may have little warning, especially if you have lung or heart disease. Infants, children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with chronic diseases such as asthma are at greater risk from smoke.


According to the City, "You can take the following steps to protect yourself and your family:

  • Leave the area if you are at greater risk from breathing smoke.
  • While driving, be sure to set your vehicle's AC controls to re-circulate.
  • Be sure to use clean filters in your home's central AC. This will aid in cleaner air inside.
  • If you have window units, be sure to set your settings to re-circulate. If this function is not available, be aware you could draw in air quality similar to that on the outside of your home.
  • Avoid activities that put extra demands on your lungs and heart. These include exercising or physical chores, both outdoors and indoors.
  • In general, individuals with asthma, allergies, and other lung conditions should avoid prolonged exposure to the smell and continue to follow their treatment plans as determined by their health care providers.
  • If you become symptomatic, seek medical advice from your health care provider."




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