HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Flames raced through several hundred acres of forest Tuesday off Highway 67. But the fire was expected and even encouraged.
The 400 acre blaze is part of the U.S. Forest Service's prescribed burn plan. The primary purpose was to burn off dry vegetation and reduce the risk or at least lessen the severity of future wildfires.
Wind-blown fire crackled through the dry underbrush off Forest Service Road 467 in the Success community. The plan called for torching 409 acres with a crew of eight.
"Kind of a hard block for us to get to because we have specific wind directions and today we've got a southwest wind and all the conditions are favorable for a successful burn," said crew chief, Bobby Iser, with the U.S. Forest Service, "This is the optimal time for us to burn. The temperature is not real hot. When it starts getting warmer, we start getting a little more mortality in the trees and when it's cool like this, we can burn with less mortality."
Burning under somewhat controlled conditions is aimed at preventing future wildfires in the forest.
"A fairly small piece of Forest Service land, but it's a piece that's pretty critical because of the fire danger and the hazard that's here. We've had quite a few wildfires in this area over the years," said Jay Boykin with the U.S. Forest Service.
Fire can be unpredictable. Crews found themselves putting out flames when the fire suddenly jumped a forest fire line.
Though the primary purpose is reducing future wildfire fuel, such burns also benefit the wildlife, clearing the way for more ground-level vegetation, which allows animals to feed more easily.
"Many of the game species. A lot of people might not realize it, but deer, turkey, all kinds of game species benefit when we do these burns," said Boykin.
It's amazing how quickly Mother Nature can rejuvenate. In just a few weeks, this burned out section of forest, will have plenty of signs of new growth.
"There will be green grasses coming back up, a lot of things we don't normally see because of the bushes. But it will be coming back real quick," Iser explained.
In addition to the 400 acre burn off Highway 67, the U.S. Forest Service also had a one thousand acre prescribed burn Tuesday in southwest Perry County, near Maxie.