DeSoto Wildfire Still Burning - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

DeSoto Wildfire Still Burning

Fire crews blame lightning for starting a weekend wildfire that continues to burn in DeSoto National Forest. The blaze near Woolmarket has already burned nearly 2,000 acres.

Firefighters are battling the changing winds, the ongoing drought and the fallen timbers from Hurricane Katrina.

Flames flicker throughout the woods just off Highway 67. But flames aren't the main concern.

"No real concerns other than the smoke right now," said Mary Belle Lunsford with the U.S. Forest Service.

Smoke darkens roads around the wildfire. A thick, billowing plume can be seen from miles away.

Eddie Baggett is the incident commander for the firefighting crew.

"It puts up a lot of smoke when it burns out, but it burns up quick. So yeah, it's going to put up a lot of smoke. But I'd rather it smoke on the roads in the daytime instead of at night," said Baggett.

Fire crews spent Monday battling flare-ups mostly. The fire began deep in the woods, a place locals call the "hog swamp." An inability to reach it prompted the decision to let it burn.

"The winds were real erratic. It came out of the north and then the southwest. We chased it around for awhile, and then realized we wasn't going to catch it, so then it was a burn out," said Baggett.

A persistent drought and trees downed by Hurricane Katrina have combined to make this a busy year for wildfires. Normally over a year's time, the U.S. Forest Service responds to about 100 wildfires. So far, since the first of this year, they've already received 124 wildfire calls from Hattiesburg south.

The Forest Service will continue watching this one from the air and the ground. At this point, it's about 90 percent contained.

"Even though we're going to call this contained in a couple days, there's still going to be smoke from the interior. So, we're still going to monitor this until we get a considerable amount of rain," said Lunsford.

Until that rain arrives, the fire danger remains high.

By Steve Phillips

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