The town of Doyline will virtually shut down this weekend as experts safely clean up illegally stored explosives on the grounds of Camp Minden. The clean up was scheduled after Monday's discovery of more than a million pounds of explosive powder at Explo Systems, Inc., sitting out in the open in cardboard boxes.
Law enforcement agencies called a town meeting Thursday night to explain the importance of staying out of the danger zone. Hundreds of people packed the gym at Doyline High School anxiously awaiting instructions on how to keep their families safe.
Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton asked residents to make plans to evacuate for at least 48 hours. "Even though we can't make anyone leave their home, I think it's in the best interest for them and for the welfare of their families to leave for the weekend," said Sheriff Sexton.
So parents can plan ahead, the school board has closed school for Monday, in case clean up takes longer. "We are going to make sure the job is done right and in the safest manner possible. We are not going to sacrifice time for safety," added Sheriff Sexton.
"It's for your safety I understand that but you're still away from your home," said Chris Fuller who has lived in Doyline all his life and was also evacuated after an Explo explosion in 2006. "You gotta move your family. I gotta pay for three nights of a hotel room, move my family and pets. That's a big hassle."
Nancy and Jerry Long say they will send their children and pets away but they plan on staying and guarding their home. "I'm not losing all my stuff, plain and simple," said Nancy Long. "Everybody knows this is going on and we have more criminals than we do good people."
To combat the possible crime of opportunity, Doyline will be filled with local officers and those from other parishes, patrolling the town around the clock. Louisiana Highways 163 and 164 will also be shut down through the town of Doyline from 6:00 a.m. Saturday to 6:00 p.m. Sunday. (Click here for road closure details.) Anyone wanting to enter the town will have to show identification and in some cases be escorted by police to their destination.
"A lot of people are afraid. People are wondering how they're going to get out of town for the weekend, how they're going to afford to do that. This is not a wealthy community," said attorney Kyle Robinson who filed a lawsuit (72,717-A) Monday morning in 26th Judicial District Court against Explo Systems, Inc.
Robinson filed the suit on behalf of two Doyline residents but hopes the court will approve it as a class action lawsuit. On behalf of his clients, Robinson is asking for a wide range of damages resulting from the unsafe storage of explosives.
For those who can't afford a hotel room during this weekend's evacuation, a shelter has been set up at Caney Conference Center in Minden. Seventeen cabins will be available.
For the latest evacuation updates, visit the website of the Webster Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.