New Orleans Marsh Fire Blamed For Fatal Highway Crashes is Out After Burning For Weeks

December 7, 2023

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A stubborn, smoky marsh fire that contributed to fatal car crashes on fogbound highways and sometimes fouled New Orleans air with a pervasive stench has been completely extinguished after burning for over a month, the New Orleans Fire Department said.

The department posted an online notice Monday declaring the fire, first reported on the eastern edge of the city in mid-October, to be out. Officials were close to declaring the fire out late last week. Firefighting efforts were already winding down before heavy weekend rains led to the assessment that the fire was completely out, the department said.

Smoke and fog were blamed for an Interstate 10 crash that killed one person on Nov. 7 in the New Orleans area. And what the National Weather Service dubbed a ” super fog ” event – thick fog mixed with smoke from the smoldering organic material in the marsh – was blamed for a series of horrific, sometimes fiery crashes on Intestate 55 near New Orleans on Oct. 23. Seven people died as a result.

In October, Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain explained that although marshes are considered wetlands, they can dry out, particularly when the state is suffering through a drought. When the dry grass ignites, “it burns not only the grass on top, it burns through the crust and the peat layer underneath,” Strain said.

State and local authorities fought the blaze. However, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported last week that city officials said marsh fires have convinced them that the city department, which typically deals with urban structure fires, needs more training and equipment to combat marsh fires.

Photo: In this aerial photo, responders are seen near wreckage in the aftermath of a multi-vehicle pileup on I-55 in Manchac, La., Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. A “superfog” of smoke from south Louisiana marsh fires and dense morning fog caused multiple traffic crashes involving scores of cars. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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