Harrison County

Gulf Coast Rescue Mission will go smokeless after Saturday fire

A homeless shelter will soon be going smoke-free after a Saturday-morning fire destroyed one of seven buildings on its property.

A fire was reported in the main building of the Gulf Coast Rescue Mission at 2750 Mission Lane about 4:30 a.m. The fire was so large it was still burning and smoldering several hours later.

Biloxi Fire Chief Joe Boney said the cause of the blaze was human error.

“Our investigation tells us that the fire was more than likely started by a cigarette in an outdoor smoking area,” Boney said. “There’s a couch outside under a lean-to and we have determined the fire started there.”

He said he doesn’t believe the fire was started on purpose.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the people that smoke at the shelter can’t afford (commercially) rolled cigarettes and eventually, a rolled cigarette is going to burn out,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case with hand-rolled cigarettes.”

Shelter Director Tom Mims said smoking will eventually be eliminated on its campus.

“Absolutely — we are going to go smoke-free,” he said.

The fire destroyed the shelter’s main building, which contained offices, a dormitory that housed 16 men, a thrift store and the kitchen.

No injuries were reported and all 16 residents have been placed in another building on the property.

But Mims said the shelter is still in need of food and supplies.

“We badly need paper goods and we also need some ice on a daily basis,” he said. “Eventually, we’re going to need monetary donations because we do plan to rebuild.”