Hancock Co. EMA director defends decision to allow fireworks

This is the scene in Hancock County one day after a marsh fire. The EMA director says fireworks may have sparked the blaze.
This is the scene in Hancock County one day after a marsh fire. The EMA director says fireworks may have sparked the blaze.

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Ronnie Calamari and his friends watched Sunday night as the flames shot into the air.

"We were popping fireworks and all of a sudden we saw a big fire up in the marsh. And we looked over there and next thing you know, it kept getting bigger and bigger," said Ronnie Calamari of Slidell.

"It started and it kept spreading and spreading and it got back about couple hundred yards back the road," said his friend Bob Himber.

The fire broke out in a marsh on Beach Boulevard, about a half mile east of the Silver Slipper Casino. The blaze was just a few hundred yards from the group's camper.

"It seemed like the fire was coming towards us and we kept saying, 'I hope it's not coming this way,'" said Calamari.

Firefighters from the Clermont Harbor and Bayside Park Volunteer Fire Departments had the blaze under control within 30 minutes. About an acre burned, leaving behind a blackened and brittle scene.

"People were popping fireworks down the road had possibly caused it. Do we know that for an absolute fact? Not at this time. But there's always a possibility whenever fireworks are popped," said Hancock County Emergency Management Director Brian Adam.

Adam made the recommendation to the board of supervisors to allow fireworks in the unincorporated areas this holiday weekend, despite the burn ban.

"Because every year, whether we're under drought conditions or not, we have fires due to fireworks," said Adam. "We looked at it and thought we were comfortable. One fire so far. That's pretty good in my opinion, considering the past few years, every Fourth of July, the volunteers are fighting a lot of woods fires due to it."

Four years ago, Hancock County did ban fireworks due to severe drought conditions. But Adam said officers had a pretty tough time enforcing that ban. Even though fireworks are allowed this year, Adam said people seemed to be more cautious when it comes to setting off the explosives.

"I live in a neighborhood that actually pops a lot of fireworks and I didn't see the first one go off last night," said Adam. "So I just think people are taking their own precautions.  Most of the ones we see being popped are here on the beaches. So that's great."

Harrison and Jackson Counties have adopted fireworks bans this Fourth of July holiday. In Harrison County, fireworks are only allowed on the beach through midnight Monday.  And in Jackson County, you can only shoot off fireworks on Front Beach and East Beach in Ocean Springs.

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