Cat Island caretaker recalls 'frightening' blaze

Cat Island caretaker recalls 'frightening' blaze
Gaudin and one other man fought the fire until officials arrived. (Photo source: WLOX)
Gaudin and one other man fought the fire until officials arrived. (Photo source: WLOX)

Fire officials say a lightning strike is more than likely what sparked Wednesday night's blaze on Cat Island.

The fire, which could be seen from the mainland, burned through 25 acres of marsh and woods. The blaze lit up the night sky for hours Wednesday, as firefighters from the forestry commission, Gulfport, Biloxi and Harrison County fought to contain it.

Longtime island caretaker Walter Gaudin says it was a "very frightening" experience as he and another homeowner tried to fight off the flames until help arrived.

"All this area here from the front beach on the east, coming this way. And it was just me and George out here. Thank God we had a tractor," said Walter Gaudin.

Gaudin and George used the tractor to cut a fire break, trying to keep the flames from spreading until help could arrive from the mainland. Gaudin says he's dealt with a few small fires on the island during his 15 years there, but nothing like Wednesday's fire.

"It was scary. Real scary. With nobody out here and no access to water, it was just use the tractor to grate the roads down and try to keep it from crossing," he explained.

Gaudin says he believes the fire originated toward the bayou edge.

"I don't think it was lightning. It had to be somebody left a campfire unattended," he said.

There are just four homes on Cat Island, and though there was no damage to any of the houses, the fire was too close for comfort; coming within 100 yards of one structure.

"They got a couple trees that are still smoldering at the top. I keep looking for about a half hour rain, hopefully," said Gaudin.

The rains eventually reached the island, cooling off the scorched land at the spot Gaudin calls his piece of paradise.

"If heaven's any better than this, I can't wait to get there," said the caretaker.

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