Firefighters ignite controlled burns for protection and training

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

STONE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Firefighters say the prescribed burns currently underway in South Mississippi's DeSoto Ranger District benefit in more ways than one. The Forest Service says the 90,000 acres set for controlled burns this year will help protect homes from wildfires and give firefighters vital hands on training.

Firefighter Chris Williams is used to working controlled burns, but in Michigan, not South Mississippi. He says the difference in vegetation makes a difference in how high the flames get.

"The green shrubs are volatile. They have waxes or chemical components that add to fire intensity," said Williams, of the Huron National Forest. "Whereas, our trees, brush and shrubs are deciduous or hardwoods that do not increase fire severity or intensity like we experience here."

The USDA Forest Service says firefighters from Michigan and Florida are working along side South Mississippi firefighters to ignite controlled burns of thousands of acres of the De Soto National Forest. Officials say it's training that will broaden firefighters' knowledge of techniques used in different parts of the country.

Jay Boykin is the district fire management officer for the De Soto Ranger District.

"See, we fight fires all over the country, as well as prescribed burns. Just about everybody out here goes out west and goes to California, wherever those big fires are. The more fire we can see, the more familiar we become with fire behavior, the safer we can be."

Thursday's controlled burn covered 3,000 acres in Stone County to reduce the threat of wildfires to nearby homes. The Forest Service has launched a new web site to keep the community informed.

"We have a lot of interest from people who are out using the forest, particularly hunters. They like to know either where we have burned already, or might burn in the future. It might impact what they do out in the forest as far as recreation goes," said Boykin. "Also some local land owners too just like to be aware of what we're doing."