The primary objectives of the Forest Protection Division are the detection, suppression and prevention of wildfires in the forestlands of Louisiana. There are 18.9 million acres of land under fire protection by the agency. Louisiana’s wildfire occurrence is “high” by regional and national standards. Without the effort and dedication of Office of Forestry personnel, the loss from wildfire could be catastrophic.
For the ten year period, 2003-2012, records indicate an annual average of 2,021 wildfires that burned 21,400 acres of forestland each year in Louisiana. In addition to the destruction of valuable forestland and the impacts on the economy through the loss of this important natural resource, wildfires seriously threaten countless rural structures and equipment on a daily basis. Millions of dollars worth of property are severely threatened but damage is minimized by timely and effective wildfire suppression. The threat to loss of life and property is immeasurable.
The Louisiana Office of Forestry is the only state agency with statewide wildland fire-fighting capabilities. Fires are detected by aircraft or are reported by public citizens, and are then suppressed by trained forestry crews. Today, the state protection system involves approximately 114 wildland firefighters equipped with trucks, tractor-plows and two-way radios. These trained professional crews are employed year-round. Statistics show that the tractor-plow operator in the southern United States has the most hazardous wildland fire-fighting job in the nation.
The specific objective of the branch is to keep the annual percent of burn at a level of no more than 0.25 of one percent (one-fourth acre for each 100 acres protected) in each parish in the intensively protected mixed pine areas of, primarily, north Louisiana parishes and to keep the annual burn at a level of no more than 0.50 of one percent (one half acre for each 100 acres protected) in flash fuel areas, primarily in southeast and southwest Louisiana. Overall, the aim is to hold the average size per fire to less than 13.2 acres. Records indicate that in 2012, the average size of Louisiana's forest fires was 5.93 acres.
The Office of Forestry administers the Certified Prescribed Burn Manager Program, which is designed to promote the safe and effective use of prescribed fire in the management of natural resources.
The Forest Protection Branch established the Louisiana Wildland Urban Interface Program to prevent the ignition of homes and structures during a wildland fire event.