Wildfires burn 14k acres in Mississippi, other states send aid

Published 1:13 pm Thursday, September 28, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Mississippi Forestry Commission is getting much-needed help from wildfire response teams from the Southeastern United States this week with some units stationed in Brookhaven.  Wildfires have burned 14,163 acres in Mississippi since August 1st.

MFC’s Incident Management Team was already mobilized and being used to fight 760 plus fires since August 1st but the out-of-state resources is needed in response to additional fires. Drought conditions are persisting and the wildfire danger increases with each passing day of little to no rainfall.

Mississippi requested additional equipment and personnel from other states to combat the wildfires according to a press release. One fire is currently burning southeast of Hazlehurst in the Copiah County community of Sardis on Monticello Road. That fire has grown over the past day. Forestry Commission Fire Chief Randy Giachelli said the action will help protect Mississipians.

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“We are working with the other states and planning to have the right number of resources in the most needed areas,” Giachelli said. “The MFC team is working hard to protect our forest land, people, and structures.” The MFC has exhausted its resources, and we reached the trigger point to bring in additional help.”

Mississippi Forestry Commission reported the Florida Forest Service assembled engine and dozer strike teams to combat the wildfires in Mississippi. More help is expected in the coming days from equipment and personnel from other states, including Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and possibly other states. In addition to out-of-state resources, several local, state, and federal resources are utilized, including the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. National Park Service.

State Forester Russel Bozeman said he was grateful for the out-of-state resources coming to help fight fires. Public Information Officer Kevin Craft said the out-of-state help will be stationed out of Brookhaven and Wiggins.

Lincoln County and 44 other counties in the state are under burn bans. It would take a substantial amount of rain to lift the burn bans and bring the region out of an extreme drought.

“We are continuing to see extreme drought-level conditions. Rain showers aren’t enough to saturate the ground and decrease wildfire risk,” Bozeman said. “The agency has a shortage of wildland firefighters, so the current crews have been exhausted. Thankfully, our neighboring states have come in to offer help. Mississippi often sends resources to other states in need, and we appreciate the outpouring of support.”

It is important to note the Lincoln County Volunteer Fire Departments have worked relentlessly to combat wildfires over the last two months. Nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by humans are preventable. Two fires this month were started by equipment and another was due to a person burning trash.

Residents are advised to be cautious and avoid open burning of any kind.