Officials from the state of Louisiana said on Saturday that the biggest wildfire in the state's history was caused by arson, as CBS News reported.
Saturday, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry announced that it is requesting the public's assistance in locating a suspect in the Tiger Island Fire. There is no information about how the fire began, only that they believe it was done maliciously.
At least 20 homes and other structures have been damaged or destroyed by the Tiger Island Fire, which began on August 22 in Beauregard Parish in southwestern Louisiana. Just 50% of the outbreak has been contained thus far.
At the height of the fire, approximately 1,200 residents of the town of Merryville, located near the Texas border, were forced to evacuate.
This week, mandatory evacuation orders were rescinded and thus far the fire has not been linked to any injuries or fatalities.
As a result of the extreme summer heat and drought, Louisiana experienced an unprecedented 441 wildfires in August, officials said, straining the state's resources.
At least one person has died, as four wildfires rage across Louisiana, including the so-called Tiger Island Fire, the largest in state history, which has forced 12,000 residents to evacuate. https://t.co/dpFtfXyGEO pic.twitter.com/AoXFIcivwq
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) August 28, 2023
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the majority of southwest Louisiana is experiencing "exceptional drought."
"This is unprecedented," Mike Strain, the commissioner for Louisiana's Department of Agriculture and Forestry, told reporters last month. "We've never had to fight this many fires simultaneously and at this duration."
The Louisiana Forestry Association is offering a reward of $2,000 for information leading to an arrest.
Recorded temperatures in Lake Charles, 40 miles southeast of Merryville, has shown the area experienced daily triple-digit temperatures since August 18 and temperatures above 95 degrees since June 29: "We are all praying for rain, even knowing that we probably won't see it," Strain said.
During this time of year, the state in the Deep South typically prepares for imminent hurricanes, tropical cyclones, and flooding.
This summer, however, Louisiana has been plagued by record-breaking temperatures and extreme drought, which has heightened the risk of wildfires significantly.
The Tiger Island Fire in Beauregard Parish, has already consumed an estimated 23 square miles of land, which is more than the state normally experiences in an entire year.
In a community that is more accustomed to inundation and hurricanes than drought and fire, resources have been depleted as firefighters battle blazes in extreme heat and rely on local water supplies.
"We only have so many resources to allocate to fires and once you are out, you're out," said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who surveyed damage from the wildfire Friday.