Another Wildfire Flares Up Near Canal Road

Heavy smoke continues to billow from a woods fire in northwest Gulfport. Strong winds and dry conditions promise to keep fire crews busy into the night.

It's the latest in a string of wildfires over the past few weeks. And it's yet another example of the dry conditions along the coast.

Firefighters haven't pinpointed a cause yet, but errant fireworks are a likely culprit. The several hundred acre woods fire began on Tuesday, died down overnight, then flared up again Wednesday.

Intense flames consumed bone dry brush along the edge of the woods at Gulfport Dragway. Flare ups like this are expected given the conditions.

"There's still so much area that's unburned. There's no way we could put enough water on this fire to put it out," said Gulfport fire chief Pat Sullivan.

With little hope of putting it out, fire crews aim for containing the advancing flames. Fire trenches did the job of protecting a nearby trailer park from the fire, which scorched the woods less than a hundred yards away from homes.

"Even though you cut a break through the woods, the fire could get so large that the embers or the radiated heat could jump that break, and then we start all over again," said Chief Sullivan.

As a firefighter checks the northern reaches of the woods for hot spots, the late morning wind fans the flames near the Dragway. Watching fire race through the brush adds emphasis to the ongoing burn bans.

"Anything that's going to get a fire started is bad news. It doesn't matter if you're burning some trash in your backyard, or if you're doing fireworks. It's just not safe right now," Sullivan said.

The wind picking up is one of the biggest aggravating factors for firefighters trying to keep the woods fire contained. It not only fans the fire, but it could also push the flames and smoke dangerously close to the nearby interstate.

"We've had to close Canal Road. There's a potential, if it jumps, a potential we'd have to close interstate ten because of the proximity to it. If somebody sees a small fire, they need to report it immediately. The sooner we get on these small fires, the less damage and less inconvenience it is," the fire chief explained.

Thick, heavy smoke is one of the aggravations that accompany such a large woods fire. It's an irritant for people with respiratory conditions and a hazard for traffic in the area.

Although Canal Road was closed for a time, it has re-opened, but the heavy smoke will remain in the area for the next few days.