Louisiana sees a 59 percent decrease in the number of wildfires when comparing 2018 to 2008.

Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says Louisiana had 1,638 wildfires in 2008, but only 676 wildfires last year. He credits the substantial decrease in the potentially deadly events to a successful public education campaign.

“Getting the message out that it’s not cool to set the wildlands on fire.”

The commissioner also credits a successful effort to do some controlled burns across the state for keeping light sparks from turning into massive infernos. “Many of our forests at the appropriate times need prescribed burning, controlled burning to get rid of the excess fuel that is on the ground.” The Department of Agriculture runs outreach programs that help landowners learn how to properly do a prescribed burn.

Arson cases are also down 82 percent, going from 893 in 2008 to 160 in 2018. Strain credits a cooperative effort between his department and the Fire Marshal for putting pyromaniacs behind bars.

“We have conducted over 158 investigations resulting in 25 arrests just in the past five years. Every time you arrest an arsonist, you markedly cut down future cases of arson.”

Strain says those 25 arson arrests were linked back to 5,240 acres of burned timberland.