You may have seen a huge column of smoke billowing over north
Harrison County Monday afternoon. There may be some lingering smoke and
ash in the area. The blaze was a prescribed burn covering more than
2,000 acres. The burn can prevent future wildfires and help create an
ideal home for some endangered creatures.
Firefighters with the
U.S. Forest Service intentionally torched 2,100 acres near Bethel and
Marvin Williams Road Monday. Overhead, a helicopter dropped some 10,000
tiny balls filled with a chemical and injected with anti-freeze.
fly the grid pattern. We drop the ping pong balls and they catch on
fire and what that does is it allows us to burn a large area in a short
period of time," said Jay Boykin, District Fire Management Officer with
the U.S. Forest Service.
Moments later, flames crackled and
popped and a huge plume of heavy smoke rose over the skies of north
Harrison County. The prescribed burn is done every three to five years.
It gets rid of dead grass, straw, and leaves that could spark more
"We really want to get this area in the
condition where if there is a fire, it's manageable. We can get in there
and it's safe for the firefighters and for the public and just reduce
the occurrence of fires in this area," said Boykin.
The burn will
not only reduce the risk of future fires, it will also preserve the
habitat for wildlife, mainly the endangered Red Cockaded
Woodpecker. There are seven active colonies in the wooded area.
there were a lot of them in this area. There are not that many now, but
we've worked pretty hard and we've actually brought in some birds from
other larger populations and the population is really growing here with
the improved habitat," said Boykin.
And since the pine trees
where the woodpeckers live have sap flowing from them, firefighters have
to take extra precautions to prevent the sap from catching fire. The
prescribed burn creates an open forest area for the birds to call home,
while helping to save lives and property for humans.
under the prescribed burn is part of the DeSoto National Forest. It is
also home to the federally threatened Gopher Tortoise.
say prescribed burns are common this time of year. Drivers are being
asked to slow down and turn on their headlights if they encounter smoky
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