County passes burn ban after brushfire rages

Published 9:26 am Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A weekend wildfire burned about 1,000 acres of Pearl River County, county Fire Marshall Albert Lee said in a phone interview Monday.

He said he didn’t know what caused the fire, and it is being investigated by the state.

Pearl River County Emergency Management Director Danny Manley said no one was injured and no homes were damaged, but some metal sheds in hunting areas were burned.

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Lee said the first calls about the brushfire came in at 10:11 a.m. Saturday and through the weekend the fire spread, “from Stanford Lake Road to Baxterville Road, from Springhill Road over toward Burge and Reyer Road and 100 yards past that toward the west.”

The area is north of Poplarville.

In total, Lee said county fire units got 43 calls this weekend, mostly due to the brush fire. He said it was the busiest firefighters have been so far this season.

Though the cause is still unknown, dry conditions in Pearl River County exacerbated the fire, and on Monday, Manley said the county board of supervisors had passed a burn ban. The state’s Forestry Commission will have to sign off on it before it takes effect.

According to the state’s Forestry Commission website, Lamar County went under a burn ban Monday.

But, Lee said, even without a ban outright, the county has been under a burn warning and, he added, he doubted whether a burn ban would help.

“I’ll be honest with you, my take is, you put a burn ban on, and it then it causes more problems for the fire departments because at the first sign of smoke, everyone calls the fire department.”

He added that even with a burn ban, getting the word out is hard.

“You’re not going to stop people from burning and on the other hand, we don’t have a way to get it out to the county that there is a burn ban.”

Monday the Associated Press reported that the USDA is offering drought relief to farmers in 41 of Mississippi’s 81 counties. While Pearl River County did not make the list, Manley said the area is still quite dry.

“For south Mississippi, this is as dry as it ever gets,” he said.

During the burn ban, Manley said he wants people to understand most fires are prohibited.

“To make it simple, there will be nothing allowed except for professional burners,” he said. Professional burners, he explained, are professionally controlled burns.

“Agricultural burns and wetlands mitigation burns and the forestry service will still be allowed to do their professional burns,” he said.

He added that certain commercial contractors are also still allowed to burn.

“People that know what they’re doing are still allowed to burn,” he said. “But no more burning leaf piles or piles of trash in your yard.”

Manley admitted the timing is bad. He pointed out that there are legitimate and safe burn operations that will continue, but now that fall is here, leaf burns are popular.

“The trick here, or the problem here is. There’s a lot of stuff in the county that needs to be burned and the conditions are perfect for that,” he said. “The problem is people build a pile of leaves in their yard and burn it and the wind kicks it up and 800 acres burns.”

Besides the brushfire, Lee said county firefighters responded to a structure fire Friday. Lee said that at 10:57 a.m. firefighters responded to a kitchen fire at 155 Whitehead Lane. Firefighters arrived by 11:03 a.m. quickly contained to the kitchen.

“The cause was accidental,” Lee said. “And there were no injuries and no major property damage.”