Burning Tree Debris Makes Massive Smoke Plume

Blame Hurricane Katrina for the giant smoke plume that drifted over Gulfport Wednesday. It's from a massive fire that's part of the ongoing hurricane clean up effort.

The enormous smoke signal rises from a somewhat secluded site off Latimer Road in Orange Grove. The giant pit is where all of Gulfport's "tree debris" is dumped off for disposal by burning.

"I'd say 80 percent of the debris that was on the streets is in this pit," explained Boyd Adams, who works for the contractor "Phillips & Jordan".

A special portable blower fans the flames that consume the hurricane waste.

"It blows about 80 mile an hour winds. And that helps keep it burning hot and dispenses the smoke, keeping the smoke down and everything," said Adams.

Up to 800 trucks a day bring full loads of trees and brush and bushes to the massive bon fire. The company in charge is familiar with disaster clean up. Phillips & Jordan was the primary disposal contractor in New York after 9/11.

"The 9/11 thing in New York, the disposal, the towers and stuff up there. And all the major hurricanes we've been involved in that's hit the United States," said Adams.

Fire Chief Pat Sullivan calls the debris burn a "nuisance" created by Katrina. The city has received several complaints from people concerned about breathing fumes from the fire. The contractor admits controlling the smoke has been more of a challenge in recent days because of changing weather conditions.

"I apologize to the people of Gulfport. We came down here to help to make life better. Unfortunate, the weather is not cooperating with us right now you know," said Adams.

Look for the smoke to disappear in the next few days. The contractor expects to wrap up the work sometime next week.

The contractor got a special permit for the debris burning. The operation is being monitored by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. And remember, you cannot burn any storm debris on your land, even if you live in an area that allows burning, because a burn ban remains in effect across the area.