Cutting Torch Sparks Fire On Old Grand Casino Barge

For the second time this year, the Gulfport Fire Department responded to an emergency call at what used to be the barge at the Grand Casino. Tuesday morning, a debris fire on the barge had their attention.

"The embers from the cutting torch got the debris that was down inside the barge. It caught that on fire, and we had some pretty significant fire inside of the barge," Gulfport Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said.

Several workers from PRC Environmental were on the barge when the blaze started. They were all safe and unharmed when Gulfport Fire crews arrived.

The South Mississippi summer heat added to the danger, so Chief Sullivan called extra firemen and equipment to respond.

"Because of the respiratory dangers, the environmental dangers, our men had to be packed out in their self-contained breathing apparatus, which adds about 80 pounds with all the gear on."

The Harrison County Fire Service supplied extra equipment and the Coast Guard helped fight the fire from the water.

This isn't the first time the clean up effort at the Old Grand barge turned into an emergency. In March, two workers died when part of the damage barge collapsed.

Chief Sullivan says the clean up process can be dangerous, and his crew are responding to more and more debris fires.

"This is not uncommon. We've experienced lots of different types of fire in the post-Katrina era."

Sullivan said his crews kept rotating men on and off the barge so they could get a break from the heat.

"You're battling the elements, you're battling the heat, the humidity and the fire itself."

It took four hours to bring the blaze under control. One firefighter was taken to the hospital suffering from heat exhaustion. He was treated and released Tuesday afternoon.