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Out of Control Fires Scorch Portions of Jones County


Residents reminded not to burn when it's windy

On Wednesday morning, Emergency Operations Center director Paul Sheffield predicted that the next few days would "have firefighters hopping" all over the county. With spring-like weather, he knew many Jones County would be outside burning brush despite the windy conditions.

He was correct, unfortunately. In a seven-hour period on Saturday alone, volunteers responded to 17 calls for service to fight out-of-control brush or trash fires and three structure fires between 1 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday that were either caused or exacerbated by wind.

On Sunday, it was more of the same, with 10 fires between noon and 6 p.m.

All available firefighters and equipment were posted at several occupied homes that were in danger, dousing them with water, and in some cases foam, to protect them from the rapidly spreading fire.

By the end of the call, an estimated 40 acres and two abandoned homes burned. Approximately 16 to 18 structures and many more vehicles were threatened by the blaze.

Several residents were asked to evacuate their homes because of the fire danger. Deputies from the Jones County Sheriff's Department provided much needed assistance to firefighters by notifying residents to vacate and also with traffic control and clearing the roads of onlookers to make way for fire equipment to pass easily. Barnes Drive was shut down for several hours.

Mississippi Forestry Commission firefighters were also on scene, cutting fire lanes to help contain the blaze. Jones County EOC officials were also on scene.

Volunteers from Soso, Hebron, Calhoun, Pleasant Ridge, Shady Grove and M & M responded.

While that call was in progress, a resident near 417/419 Shady School Road had a burn pile get out of control, causing a small brush fire and minor damage to a mobile home. Pleasant Ridge VFD also responded to this call, as well as the Barnes Drive call nearby. These two incidents were unrelated, other than happening at the same time, while equipment and personnel were tied up.

At the same time as the fire in Soso, firefighters from Moselle, Southwest and South Jones were battling a 30-acre woods fire off Ben Thompson Road. Forestry also assisted there.

Some of the brush/woods fires threatened structures before being extinguished and some burned large swaths of land. Firefighters from several departments assisted Forestry firefighters with a fire that was at least 50 acres on Bernis Hill Road in Soso on Saturday.

On Jerry Welch Road late Saturday, firefighters responded to a woods fire that burned approximately 10 acres. Forestry assisted on that call, too. At a residence on Currie Road, also on Saturday afternoon, firefighters responded to a vehicle and yard fire in which the car sustained severe damage.

"The windy conditions are not suitable for burning at this time, nor participating in any activity causing sparks, which will ignite the ground cover - like welding or allowing a chain to drag from your vehicle," said Dana Bumgardner, spokeswoman for the Jones County Fire Council. "Once a fire has ignited, the wind will expand the blaze explosively, with fire getting out of control in a matter of minutes."

The 17 brush-fire calls that were between 11:52 a.m. and 7:18 p.m. does not include the other calls firefighters responded to, including structure fires, medical calls, traffic hazards and vehicle collisions.

"The Jones County Fire Council thanks you for recognizing the severe fire risk with the windy conditions and refraining from burning at this time," Bumgarder said.

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