Deer Island fire could burn into the weekend

DMR continues to monitor a wildfire burning on Deer Island. (Photo source: Dept. of Marine Resources)
DMR continues to monitor a wildfire burning on Deer Island. (Photo source: Dept. of Marine Resources)

DEER ISLAND, MS (WLOX) - The fire on Deer Island could burn for another day or two, according to the Department of Marine Resources.

DMR's Coastal Preserves Manager, Jeff Clark, told WLOX News that about 10 acres has already burned on the 500+ acre island. The fire is creeping east near Grand Bayou. By the time it burns out, it could consume up to 30 acres.

Several groups have recently worked to restore land and vegetation to the island. Just this week, volunteers replanted part of west Deer Island with sea oats and other coastal plants to help stabilize the sand recently dredged from the Mississippi Sound.

"These wildfires can easily destroy months of restoration work by killing young trees and shrubs that help hold the island together," Jeff Clark said. "Even after the burn ban is lifted, we ask the public to restrict campfires to near the high tide line and make sure the fires are completely extinguished before leaving."

Although there is no proof that the fire was caused by people, both this fire and another one recently started in areas frequented by boaters and campers.

All coastal counties are currently under a burn ban, which prohibits any outdoor burning, including campfires. Violation of a burn ban can result in fines up to $500.

Anyone who recklessly causes a woods fire can also face up to 90 days in jail. If the act was "willful and malicious," they face up to two years in the state penitentiary. But again, there's no reason to believe this fire was intentionally set on the island.

In fact, experts say periodic wildfires have always been a part of our natural ecosystems, and not inherently negative events. DMR officials say fires release nutrients back into the soil and promote the growth and flowering of many plant species. That type of plant rejuvenation, in turn, attracts many birds, mammals and other animal species to the recently burned area.

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