Deer Island burns, but that's a good thing

Deer Island burns, but that's a good thing
The prescribed burn was conducted to bring the island back to good environmental health. (Photo source: WLOX)
Tonight, the fire is mostly out. But earlier Wednesday, Deer Island was taken over by a raging inferno, though this fire was set on purpose by the Department of Marine Resources (DMR). (Photo source: WLOX)
Tonight, the fire is mostly out. But earlier Wednesday, Deer Island was taken over by a raging inferno, though this fire was set on purpose by the Department of Marine Resources (DMR). (Photo source: WLOX)
Before the first fire is set, a safety briefing is held. James Davis is the DMR firefighter in charge of the burn.(Photo source: WLOX)
Before the first fire is set, a safety briefing is held. James Davis is the DMR firefighter in charge of the burn.(Photo source: WLOX)

DEER ISLAND, MS (WLOX) - Tonight, the fire is mostly out. But earlier Wednesday, Deer Island was taken over by a raging inferno, though this fire was set on purpose by the Department of Marine Resources (DMR). The prescribed burn was conducted to bring the island back to good environmental health.

Before heading to the island, gear is loaded and transported.  Before the first fire is set, a safety briefing is held.  James Davis is the DMR firefighter in charge of the burn.

"Everybody has been trained. We've got a burn plan in place that gives action, what people can do in case of an emergency.  We do carry fire packs, fire shelters in case we go get caught in the burn," he explained.

The DMR firefighters are being helped today by two Army veterans receiving valuable training. One of them is Rebecca Weaver.

"I'm doing this as part of a program through the Student Conservation Association for the Veteran's Fire Corp. Basically, they take recent era veterans, and they teach them everything they need to know about wildfire firefighting," she said.

One thing to know is the forecast. That was on the mind of firefighter Jay McIlwain.

"Today, we have winds out of the north, and so it will be pushing all the smoke out to sea. So that's kind of our goal right now. So, we're not dumping a bunch of smoke on Highway 90."

The goal of this burn is to get rid of something on the island that shouldn't be there, according to Davis.

"Primarily right now, we have Cogan grass starting to take over in some spots, and we've got a pretty good population of Chinese Tallow Trees," he explained.

As the fire rages on, it's hard to imagine the good that is being done for the island habitat, but McIlwain said the blaze will leave a beneficial mark.

"There's been a suppression of fire over the years, and we're trying to re-introduce fire into the landscape is important around here. The adaptive landscape that we have on the coastal plains."

Officials with the DMR are asking people to stay away from the burned area of the island for the next few days for safety reasons.  Burned tree limbs could fall, and there will be hotspots from Wednesday's fire.

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