Ecru blaze prompts talk of Pontotoc County fire ban

ECRU – Pontotoc County supervisors will be discussing a fire ban Tuesday after six departments responded to calls for help on a blaze that engulfed several acres of kudzu and grass on Monday.
Landowner Dan Galloway had called for help after a debris fire had gotten out of hand and burned a shed on Sunday near where he was clearing around an abandoned home he hoped to restore.
“We just had a little bitty fire – just a small trash fire. We cleaned it out around there with a machete,” he said. “[Sunday] night before we left, they found two fires. We thought it was out; I came here about nine o’clock [Monday] morning, and there was no smoke nowhere.”
By 2 p.m. Monday, however, the fire had either blown over or burned under some kudzu and was again threatening the neighborhood just east of the Cherry Creek community. Galloway called for help again, and the Mississippi Forestry Commission and six fire departments – Ecru, Sherman, Hurricane, Longview, Thaxton and Pontotoc – sent firefighters and trucks.
By mid-afternoon, Wayne Stokes, president of the Pontotoc County Board of Supervisors and a volunteer firefighter, said MFC was “back-blazing” – setting small fires upwind from firebreaks to deprive the bigger blaze of fuel. Just feet from the firebreak, a recently mowed hayfield that stretched to a nearby residence was so dry the grass crunched under the feet of passersby.
Much of the region is severely dry, and several wildfires – at least 10, according to Stacy Simmons of the Forestry Commission – have erupted in different parts of the county in the past few days. Stokes said Board of Supervisors members will discuss a fire ban at their regular meeting this morning.
Ecru Fire Chief Phil Stokes, Wayne’s brother, said it would be up to Mississippi Forestry Commission investigators and Pontotoc County Fire Coordinator Terry Wages to decide whether to seek reimbursement from the landowner for costs involved in fighting the fire he apparently started.
One thing Phil Stokes was certain of, though: “It’s too hot and dry to be burning.”

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Casten/NEMS Daily Journal