Wildfires threaten Smith County homes; what agencies are doing to protect them

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 9:34 PM CDT
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SMITH COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - Wildfires in Smith County that have been burning for days are now getting closer to several homes.

The battle is centered on a county road east of Raleigh and north of Highway 18.

For two weeks wildfires have been spreading across Smith County - burning everything in its path and leaving woodlands like this up in smoke.

“The reason for that is the needles are falling off the trees and then catching back on fire, the roots are on fire under the ground. And, and that’s causing a reburn,” Meacham Harlow with the Mississippi Forestry Commission explained.

Harlow says it’s unknown how wildfires started just over two weeks ago.. but drought conditions have caused the burn to spread 400 acres and encroach on Smith County homes like Phil Thomas’s.

“When it first started. We all were panicking pretty pretty rapidly packed our clothes up and got ready. Fortunately, we didn’t have to evacuate,” Thomas explained.

Evacuations were avoided because several county agencies are teaming up to protect 14 homes -- three of which are within a few hundred feet of the ashes.

“We have brought in a lot of resources for precaution. We have got personnel, emergency responders, VFDs, water tankers, and brush trucks at each house wetting it down. And they will stay there until further notice,” Harlow said.

“I’m so grateful for our local volunteer fire departments and for the Mississippi Forestry service that’s been here. They left last night at one o’clock, and that’s when I saw them finally go out. And they were back here at daylight this morning,” Thomas said.

Agencies involved include:

Volunteer Fire DepartmentsEmergency ManagementState/Federal AgenciesOthers
PolkvilleJasper CountyMississippi Forestry CommissionJasper County Sheriff’s Office
RaleighSmith CountyMississippi Forestry Commission AviationSmith County Sheriff’s Office
TaylorsvilleU.S.D.A. Forest Service
Bay Springs
Jasper County

But when will this long-term burn end? Harlow says there’s no telling as drought conditions are expected to continue over the coming weeks.

“Our drought and the fire danger is going to continue for quite some time. I’m talking not days, but weeks, possibly months. I mean, it just depends on the weather,” Harlow said.

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