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PROJECTS BLOG 10/28/2016


Wreckage mounds taller and longer than a pickup truck are more than daily reminders to the survivors of the Louisiana Flood that they have lost everything; the mounds are fertile incubators for mold spores, ideal hunting grounds for venomous spiders, breeding grounds for venomous snakes, and repositories of outdated building materials that leech into the groundwater with each rainfall. In Magnolia Estates mobile park home and elsewhere in the flood zone, the remaining residents are faced with the choice: endure the perpetual health problems or set illegal fire to their memories, hazarding a night of respiratory damage and possible citation for an improved future.  

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“It’s legal! Ours is legal! It’s just wood,” comes the residents’ indignant cry as an alarmed firefighter strolls up during Walker Life Church organizer Lalanya Lantham’s sorting of materials.

Krewe Ulysses, a high-impact distribution organization, has been curating a database of at-risk individuals whose means of transportation were destroyed in the flood and cannot reach the ever-decreasing aid centers such as the Walker Life Church. But on some nights, the toxic smoke is too prevalent for volunteer teams to safely fulfill Krewe Ulysses door-to-door relief work.

“Nobody should be breathing this,” said veteran responder and Burners Without Borders’ volunteer, Will Donelson. “You can tell the difference between campfire smoke and burning a couch or plastic. Thick, acrid smoke. When you’re burning toxic materials, the particulate is thick and heavy and remains near ground level. That’s why the firetrucks were rolling through.”

The firefighter agreed and assured the indignant residents, “This isn’t one of the fires I’m looking for. It’s the insulation, rotted couches, and other things people often don’t realize is going to make em sick if they burn. And even the legal fires are a danger. Just feet away from their homes and makeshift tents. One cinder floats off and it could all go up.”

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Where the residents aren’t incinerating the wreckage, the volunteer teams struggle to pass on the narrow roads. “Can’t even hardly drive through, there’s so much trash everywhere,” said Lala as she was recording video to post online, “Somebody needs to come to Magnolia Estates.”

Although the volunteer crews couldn’t make it down the smoke-laden streets, Will was undeterred. “If we can’t get to them one night, we can get to them the next. That’s what makes our work with Krewe Ulysses great, we can catalog who needs what, who doesn’t have the transportation to get it, and then get it from the center’s inventory.”

The wreckage fires’ smoke are both a welcome mask to the undrained sewage and a visceral signal that this unnamed disaster area spanning 20 parishes (counties) is the worst since hurricane Sandy and will require a lot more relief before residents can even begin to rebuild their surroundings into normalcy.

If you would like to help Burners Without Borders bolster the effort of Krewe Ulysses to deliver resources to the 15% of households that do not have vehicles, donate here or sign up to volunteer with us here.   Pastor Val of the Life Church in Walker has pledged that in addition to the hundreds of volunteers his congregation has already opened their doors to, meals and limited housing (or camping) will continue to be made available to the people willing to do the work.

Daniel Cappy
Louisiana Flood Relief Logistics Coordinator
Burners Without Borders

Read more about the Louisiana Relief Project here:


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