JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A large section of the Desoto National Forest in north Jackson County went up in flames Tuesday. But, the fire was set on purpose by professionals with the U.S. Forest Service.
Before the first spark is ignited, a briefing is held about conditions. Then the unmistakable sound when flames meet bone-dry tinder and brush. All who participates have to be very careful.
That's the word from Cliff Willis with the U.S. Forest Service.
"Everything we do revolves around the safety of our crews on the ground as well as the aviation resources that are in the air," he said.
According to Jay Boykin with the service, the end will justify the means.
"We're eliminating wildfires for a period of time, a few months. And we're also making it a whole lot safer if we do have a wildfire for several years to come," Boykin explained.
Some of the firefighters come from far away, like Idaho to lend a hand during this burn. One of them is Ed Ohlweiler.
"We really appreciate the southern hospitality. They treat us pretty nice down here, and it's a good experience in a different field type that we usually don't see out west."
Great care is taken to watch out for wildlife, including the endangered Red Cockaded Woodpecker. Ed Moody is a wildlife biologist with the Forest Service.
"Animals sense when something is coming. The Gopher Tortoises can get in their burrows. Along with other reptiles and small mammals. And there's plenty of stump holes here that those animals use. Deer are able to make their way through the fire just fine."
When the flames leap high, so does adrenalin for firefighter Sara Strickland.
"Well, there is a little bit of excitement in fire. You really never know what your day holds. But it's good people, good environment," she said.
There's a widespread belief that the best time to start these prescribed burns is when there is very little wind. But according to Willis, wind is actually a good thing.
"A fairly steady wind of 7 to 8 miles per hour actually helps move the smoke, doesn't settle into one area, and allows it to spread out and mix with the atmosphere," he explains.
And when the air clears, this forest will be better prepared to handle whatever fire may come its way.
About 2000 acres were burned today. Any hotspots left should be extinguished by the heavy overnight rains that are expected.