Brush fire engulfs I-10

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Traffic is moving on I-10 after a wildfire stalled traffic all day Saturday, between Highway 609 and 57. Though the fire's out, problems could linger for drivers in the coming days.

"We see fires out here every day, you know, but we don't ever see them this bad," said Matt Johnson, who stopped his fuel truck for two hours on Saturday, when flames engulfed I-10.

He was one of many fuel truck drivers stranded for hours on the median. He's no stranger to traffic, but this delay was particularly dangerous to him.

"I've been out here now a little over two hours waiting," Johnson said. "There were several other trucks already here when we got here, and we had to stop because there was fire coming across the road. And we had to stop because we're carrying hazardous material."

The massive damage and lengthy travel delays all started from what seemed like a small problem.

"We got called, if I remember right, it was about 10:30 this morning, for what originally was a small brush fire off of Ft. Bayou Road," said Ft. Bayou Fire Chief Lyle Crandall. "I suspect somebody had a small burn pile going, and either thought it was out or left it."

But that small fire, with some help from a steady breeze, grew into a massive problem for firefighters and citizens alike.

"When it was all said and done, we ended up out on the interstate, and across the interstate, both the east and westbound sides, and it had actually started the Sandhill Crane refuge on fire," Crandall said. "It had spread a couple of miles."

I-10 was completely stalled for three hours, then drivers dealt with massive backups in a smoky haze. It took six fire departments put out the blaze, and it's not completely over.

"There's gonna be a lot of smoke out there for a couple of days, so they got signs out there warning of the smoke," Crandall said.  "So any of the local people need to be careful when they are travelling to Mobile in the next few days, especially when it starts getting dark. It'll get worse then."

Crandall also encouraged people who burn trash or debris to stay with the fire until it's completely out.  That way, he said, minor fires would have a far smaller chance of billowing out of control.

No homes were damaged during Saturday's fire, and there were no directly-related injuries.  But the Mississippi Highway Patrol responded to two wrecks in the smoke, one of them with injuries.