Wildfires Out Of Control, Fire Marshal Wants Arsonists Prosecuted

It's another exhausting day in the woods for Mississippi Forestry Commission and Harrison County firefighters. The fire off Menge Avenue won't go away. It started Saturday when a control burn got out of control on the north side of I-10.

"Here we go again," Harrison County Fire Marshal George Mixon says. "Earlier this morning we talked about everything being under control, but we were just patiently waiting for the wind and humidity to rekindle."

A worried Rex Fisher watches. He lives real close to the flames.

"I'm concerned that my three houses might get burned up. If the wind keeps going like it is, it's blowing right toward it."

Weeks of wildfires across the county, with no break, are getting to the crews.

West Harrison County Volunteer Firefighter Lamar Fredericks says, "I just started Monday evening with it and after about 15 or 20 hours of it, we're really exhausted."

Mixon says the risk is so high he asked the Sheriff's Department and Forestry Commission to write more than tickets. Mixon wants violators prosecuted on more serious charges.

"We're asking them to take and cite them. And if we catch anybody setting the fires, either throwing stuff out of their windows or going in the woods and setting them, we're trying to prosecute them to the fullest extent - charging them with arson."

Law enforcement says citizens have to help too.

Sheriff's Deputy Windy Swetman says, "If you see someone, a neighbor setting one of these fires, stop them. Tell them, 'There's a burn ban.' Call us so we can come out there and take the necessary actions."

The numbers alone are exhausting enough. Fifty fires over four days in Harrison County scorched 2,300 acres.

The fire fines are pretty steep. A ticket for burning is $150 to 500. If the blaze spreads to your neighbor's property it will cost $350 plus $75 per fire fighting unit, per hour.

Mixon says the raging fires create both health and environmental hazards. That's why the entire coast is under both a county and state fire burn ban.