From Press & Staff Reports
Multiple fire crews from two counties worked together over the weekend to protect and save Smith’s Sawmill from a large fire.
Eupora Fire Chief Richard Love provided this narrative of the fire:
The Eupora Fire Department was dispatched to Smith’s Sawmill on Highway 9 South in Choctaw County at 9:52 p.m. Saturday. Units arrived on scene at 9:55 p.m. Upon arrival, they found fire covering approximately 5 to 6 acres of sawdust and slabwood with flames shooting up 80 to 100 feet. Bywy Fire Department was next on scene to support Eupora. Eupora initiated the attack from the west side while Bywy started on the east side.
“Our initial goal was to save the sawmills and equipment,” Love said.
Mathiston responded shortly after with its two 5,000-gallon water tankers. The firefighters were keeping the fire at bay with four 1½-inch lines using water from the tankers while Bywy Fire Department set up a water filling station drafting water from a pond located about 3 miles away.
It didn’t take long before the crews ran out of water and both tankers had left the scene to refill. At that point, they decided to bring in tankers from Reform and Chester in Choctaw County so they could improve their water supply. By this time a trackhoe was used to start a fire lane between the burned and unburned areas.
“We knew before we started that we would never completely extinguish the fire so we made adjustments to keep the fire away from the equipment operator and keep it protected as it worked,” said Love.
Walthall, Tomnolen, Ackerman and Simpson fire departments were later dispatched because of the need for equipment to haul water and manpower to rotate on and off the hose lines. The Mississippi Forestry Commission also responded, and cut a fire lane on the back (north) side of the fire.
“Without a doubt, we could not have controlled the fire without Bywy’s tanker and dry hydrant setup,” Love stated..
Another trackhoe was dispatched to the scene to start cutting a fire line from the east side toward the trackhoe already on scene. Tankers and pumpers continued shuttling water throughout the night. At around 3 a.m. Sunday, crews were satisfied that the fire line had been cut good enough to contain the fire to the burned area so all units were dismissed from the scene.
Fortunately, no wind blew during the entire operation that night. However, at some point during the following hours, a light breeze started blowing from the north and the fire was able to jump the fire line.
Bywy Fire Department was dispatched back to the scene, and Eupora and Mathiston fire departments were dispatched to support at 11 a.m.
Firefighters determined that they would restart the entire operation as the night before so all departments were dispatched to the scene again. Both trackhoes began cutting another fire line while two pumpers protected them from fire. The departments continued this operation until 3:18 p.m. when Bywy Fire Chief Michael Holmes determined that the scene was again secure. All units cleared the scene at this time.
Love said an estimated 150,000 gallons of water were used over the nine-hour period. No injuries occurred and no equipment was lost. The origin of the fire is officially undetermined but extreme heat during the day Saturday was cited as the likely cause.
“On behalf of Eupora Fire Department, I would like to thank all responding Choctaw and Webster County fire departments,” Love said. “The operation was very well organized and we all worked really well together. We realize that there are many citizens and businesses that support our local fire departments in all the surrounding communities, towns and cities, and we appreciate each and every one.”
Local crews also responded to a number of others fires last week. The 911 Center listed these fires and dispatched agencies among its calls:
• 11:09 p.m. Sept. 4: grass fire on Industrial Park Road; Eupora Fire Department.
• 2:39 p.m. Friday: fire on Thinnes Drive in Mathiston; Mathiston and Eupora fire departments, and Mississippi Forestry Commission.
• 1:50 p.m. Saturday: grass fire on Highway 9 North; Bellefontaine, Walthall, Eupora and Tomnolen fire departments.
• 2:49 p.m. Saturday: grass fire on Mt. Vernon Road; Eupora and Tomnolen fire departments.