LONG BEACH, Miss. (WLBT) - It wasn’t a routine brush fire or a little grass fire started by some wayward sparks from a trash pile. Not to the crews from the Mississippi Forestry Commission who have been on the scene, some since Friday. It was an experience full of images they’ll never forget.
Korey Williams, a dozer driver, said the fire turned on a dime, and the firefighters knew when it did.
“All of a sudden we could hear the fire picking up it sounded about like a freight train. Things were popping, the trees were starting to not so much explode, but the bark on the trees were popping,” said Williams. "If you’ve ever been in the woods, when you start seeing the fire climbing the bark, it means the fire is getting intense.
“And I remember my operator Kyle, he looked at me and said ‘be careful’ in a real serious voice,” said swamper Kristin Rush. “It kind of intimidated me a little bit. That’s what I’m going to remember the most.”
Sarah Porsche-Monroe lives in Long Beach and had watched parts of the blaze from her home. When she got to the scene, what she described was almost surreal.
“We’re standing there, 60 foot trees and the flames were coming out higher than the trees and at that point we couldn’t do anything,” she said.
The fire threatened the Flying J and the Legacy Inn and Suites on Canal Road, as well as churches and other businesses along that stretch. Around 1,700 acres of fire, but only one abandoned structure burned, and an RV was destroyed in a yard where the house wasn’t touched.
“That’s it. So considering the amount of structures, homes, subdivisions, apartment complexes that were endangered, it’s really we’re lucky that nothing else burned,” said Meacham Harlow, Public Information Officer for MFC.
Wildfires in Mississippi aren’t as publicized or as dramatic as they are in other states like California and Texas.
“Because it’s not the same terrain, not the same weather, not the same conditions at all,” said Porsche-Monroe.
But it’s still a constant threat, says State Forester Sam Morgan.
“It happens more often than you think. This one was highly publicized because of I-10 and this in the communities here in south Harrison County,” he said. It does happen frequently, not this size, but a 200 acre fire is not unheard of on a regular basis."