Wetlands Fire Smoke and Dense Fog Impacting Greater New Orleans Area
New Orleans, LA – The City of New Orleans is monitoring an active wetlands fire that is currently burning underground in forested wetlands on private property between Bayou Sauvage National Urban Wildlife Refuge and the Michoud Canal. The City of New Orleans is coordinating with other state and local agencies to monitor this situation and determine ways to address and mitigate this incident. There are no immediate threats to residential or commercial structures in the area at this time. The biggest hazard from this active incident is smoke that is impacting air quality and driver visibility.
Due to the extremely dry conditions statewide throughout the year, the Office of Louisiana State Fire Marshal issued a statewide burn ban, which prohibits all private burning pursuant to authority under R.S. 40:1602, in August 2023. As a reminder, open fires are prohibited by law at all times in the City of New Orleans. The lack of any significant amount of rain and extreme heat throughout the summer has also dried out the wetlands and reduced the depth of the water table. The fire has been burning at and below surface level and burned approximately 200 acres thus far. Any form of suppression efforts from above the surface has little to no effect extinguishing the fire.
Because the fire is deep inside a hard-to-access part of the wetland, New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD) is currently working with the property owner and Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) to have heavy equipment deployed to clear a stable access route for firefighters. The Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans’ (SWBNO) Facility Maintenance Department is assisting responding agencies with a request to utilize water in the drainage canal to flood the area of the wildfire. SWBNO is currently utilizing two pumps to pump drainage water into the impacted area.
Wetland fire smoke, in combination with dense fog, could cause dangerous driving conditions overnight and in the morning throughout early this week. The National Weather Service (NWS) forecast indicate that patchy areas of dense fog will be possible, but not as widespread as Monday. Smoky areas may see much greater density or coverage. Drivers are urged to use extreme caution during the morning and evening commute.
FREE MASKS FOR AREAS IMPACTED BY SMOKE
In coordination with New Orleans Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness (NOHSEP), the City of New Orleans is distributing free N95 and KN95 masks to communities impacted by the wetlands fire smoke. Individuals in need of free masks are encouraged to stop by the following locations:
- New Orleans East Regional Library, 5641 Read Blvd, Mon-Thurs, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
- Joe Brown Recreation Center, 5601 Read Blvd, Mon-Fri, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
- Sanchez Multi-Service Center, 1616 Fats Domino Ave, Mon-Fri, 10 a.m. – 9 a.m.
- Algiers Regional Library, 3014 Holiday Dr, Mon-Thurs, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
HEALTH IMPACTS & SAFETY TIPS
The New Orleans Health Department (NOHD) remains vigilant in monitoring the wetlands fire situation to assess and mitigate potential health impacts on the community. NOHD is closely tracking developments to ensure the safety and well-being of residents. Individuals are encouraged to check in on loved ones in the area, especially seniors, children and those with heart or lung conditions.
Individuals should keep an eye out for these symptoms related to wildfire smoke:
- Coughing or shortness of breath
- Scratchy or sore throat
- Chest pains
- Burning pain in eyes
- Runny nose or inflamed sinuses
Air Quality Tips For Dealing With Smoke:
- Limit time spent outdoors as much as possible
- Keep windows closed
- Run A/C on recirculation mode and use a clean filter
- Wear a face covering or N95/KN95 mask if outside
If You Must Drive In Foggy Conditions, Keep The Following Safety Tips In Mind:
- Slow down and allow extra time to reach your destination.
- Make your vehicle visible to others both ahead of you and behind you by using your low-beam headlights since this means your taillights will also be on. Use fog lights if you have them.
- Never use your high-beam lights. Using high beam lights causes glare, making it more difficult for you to see what’s ahead of you on the road.
- Leave plenty of distance between you and the vehicle in front of you to account for sudden stops or changes in the traffic pattern.
- In extremely dense fog where visibility is near zero, the best course of action is to first turn on your hazard lights, then simply pull into a safe location such as a parking lot of a local business and stop.
- If there is no parking lot or driveway to pull into, pull your vehicle off to the side of the road as far as possible. Once you come to a stop, turn off all lights except your hazard flashing lights, set the emergency brake, and take your foot off of the brake pedal to be sure the taillights are not illuminated so that other drivers don't mistakenly run into you.
Residents are also encouraged to sign up for NOLA Ready emergency text alerts by texting NOLAREADY to 77295.