Wildfires Exhaust Harrison County Fire Teams

The tops of pines trees were barely visible. Most of their limbs were swallowed up by thick smoke.

Edward Rowland has never seen anything like the inferno eating away at south Mississippi's vegetation. "It's been rough. A lot of fires," the Mississippi Forestry Commission employee said. Rowland came to the coast from Tate County to fight the wildfires. "It's a lot different than what we have in the north part of the state," he said. "This part down here, we've never fought fire like this."

Rowland's small team of bulldozer drivers had the monumental task of trying to be everywhere a fire ignites. "We saved 14 homes," he proudly said, referring to a situation that almost got out of hand on Thursday. "Had a 620 acre fire. It's tough."

Tough, because everywhere they looked, the fire teams saw a haze of smoke.

Tough, because in Harrison County's case, fire service coordinator George Mixon never knew how many volunteers he could count on to contain the streaking flames. "We've got 25 mile per hour winds. The fire is just doing whatever it wants to do," Mixon said. "And we've got a shortage of manpower, a shortage of volunteers. And we're just playing checkers. It moves, we move. And we're just trying to do what we can."

After a week of making sure the burning brush near Cemetery Road didn't threaten homes, Nixon said his staff was running on fumes and adrenaline. But it wouldn't quit until the fires were finally doused.