Cigarette Being Blamed for Back-to-Back Interstate Fires

If you've traveled along I-10 in Harrison County lately, you've probably seen smoke or flames just south of the interstate near the 26-mile marker.

That's because of two brush fires that broke out at the same spot, just east of the Menge Avenue exit.

Helicopters hovered above I-10 Saturday morning, dropping water on the remnants of a fire that burned close to the interstate.

"They're going to a pond behind us, a lake behind us, picking up water and dropping it down on the hot spots, and it kind of helps us because it kills the fire down so we can get in closer to it," said Robert Wood of the Mississippi Forestry Commission.

Forestry officials believe the Saturday morning fire stems from an incident that sparked a fire in the same spot Friday afternoon.

"Evidently some time yesterday, probably 12:30, 1 o'clock, someone threw a cigarette out, started a small brush fire on the side of the interstate. Volunteers did respond to it, for the most part had it out, but with our humidity, like it is, it caught up again," Wood said.

Firefighters and forestry workers dug these plow lines here Friday night.

They say that might have kept flames from leaping here on the interstate.

"Behind us, down there, you can see where it burned right up to the black top there...Friday afternoon traffic slowed down to a crawl, I guess everybody was looking, but it was both ways the traffic slowed down. It had a really good smoke column going. It really had the interstate smoked out," Wood said.

The fire destroyed about 30 acres of land south of the interstate.

No one was injured in either fire, but the back-to-back blazes left firefighters and forestry workers weary.

"If the public would help us out and not throw their cigarettes out the window and not burn their trash, it would help us a lot," Wood said.

Out-of-town firefighters, here to help out with Katrina recovery efforts, were also on hand to help put out the two fires.

Forestry leaders say they're in dire need of more equipment and manpower, especially now, during the aftermath of Katrina.