Two injured while battling big fire

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The smell of smoke still lingered in the air over BrookhavenTuesday morning after a grass fire on Fox Road became an over500-acre blaze in south Lincoln County Monday afternoon.

“We still don’t know much about how it started,” said LincolnCounty Fire Coordinator Clifford Galey. “We do know it ended upburning over 500 acres in that area.”

The fire grew in the area between Fox Road, Somerset, andPricedale Lane, threatening area homes and structures. The fireindirectly was the cause of two hospitalizations.

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Area resident Bobby Rollins is currently hospitalized incritical condition at University Medical Center in Jackson after hewas involved in an all-terrain vehicle accident while attempting tochart the fire’s progress and alert neighbors, officials said. Hewas airlifted to Jackson after being transported to King’sDaughters Medical Center.

An unidentified Ruth volunteer firefighter was also taken to thehospital for treatment for dehydration.

Galey said members of six volunteer fire departments as well asMississippi Forestry Commission workers from Pike, Lincoln andLawrence counties battled the blaze and remained in the area wellinto the evening.

“The wind was changing directions so much that the head firekept changing,” said Hog Chain Volunteer Fire Chief John Hart.”You’d be on one side and the head fire, which is the worst part ofit, would switch directions. We had so many houses to protect thatit was hard to stay in front of it.”

Forestry bulldozers and tractors ploughed furrows in the land tokeep the flames contained. Planes also circled the area, directingworkers on the ground to where the fire was headed.

“He circles the fire and lets them know which direction thefire’s going and where they need to get their tractors out tohelp,” said Galey.

Firefighters and emergency workers were dispatched to differentareas throughout the day, standing between the fire and structuresthreatened by the flames.

“I know we stood by at least 10 different houses yesterday,”Galey said Tuesday. “Everyone did a great job working together. Forit to have burned all those acres and for us to have not lost astructure is amazing.”

Officials were proud of how well the groups worked together.Galey said the Incident Command System fell into place flawlesslyand worked well throughout.

“All the departments and the Forestry Service and everyoneworked real well together to get the job done and save theproperty,” said Zetus Volunteer Fire Chief Dale Anding. “It didturn out better than it could have. It could have been a much worsesituation.”

All the Lincoln County volunteer units had left the scene by 9p.m., though the Forestry Service remained and was expected to bein the area again Tuesday morning to be certain the blaze did notspring back up.

Hart said the Brookhaven Fire Department, the Loyd Star andHeuck’s Retreat Volunteer Fire Departments were on standby to helpthe areas of the county that were unprotected.

“It was a great group effort, but Ruth did an outstanding job,”said Hart. “They were by themselves for a while, and didn’t haveany backup. They were having to fight tooth and nail because theywere on the initial call.”

Zetus was one of the first departments released from the site,but received a page elsewhere almost immediately.

Galey said the fire investigator from the Forestry Commissionwill be on hand today to try to determine the cause and source ofthe flames. He also reminded county residents of the dangers ofstarting fires during a dry spell.

“Remind everyone how dry it is, and that they shouldn’t beburning right now, for their own safety as well as everyoneelse’s,” he said.