PASCAGOULA -- A fire that started Thursday near a few homes in a remote area of south Jackson County burned 700 acres on Saturday after moving onto the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
By midday Friday, teams of firefighters had cut wide fire lanes through the undergrowth on the refuge to protect buildings at the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, which house offices, an interpretative area, classrooms, laboratories and a dormitory.
The fire was sending up a substantial column of smoke in this rural area of Jackson County near the Alabama line.
By Saturday, the fire had officially crossed over state lines, said Brittany Petersen with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"The fire in Alabama is primarily in the marsh," Petersen said. "This area is very remote and difficult to access. The Alabama Forestry Commission is being brought into the incident command to help with this fire."
said the few homes in the area are west of the fire, which is burning toward the northeast through an uninhabited marsh area.
Melissa Perez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said officials believe the fire originated at the end of Grand Bature Road, near Sam Road. On Friday, the wind was pushing the fire away from any homes in that area. She said a few homes in that area were west of the fire, which was burning toward the northeast through an uninhabited marsh area.
Peterson said Bayou Heron Road will remain closed on Saturday, but residents who were evacuated are being allowed back to their homes after a "successful burn out operation that helped to future protect the structures."
Perez said on Friday that crews had to fight the fire by cutting fire lanes because a column of smoke in the remote marsh area made it impossible to get equipment in to fight the fire. She said they are dealing with wind gusts, and having difficulty not only getting equipment in to fight, but also getting a good assessment.
"It's in the deep marsh and hard to see," she said.
The fire started on private property, then moved onto public land. It was first reported at the U.S. Fish and Wild Service at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Fish and Wildlife was fighting the fire, along with the NERR staff, the Forts Lake Volunteer Fire Department, the Mississippi Forestry Service and De Soto National Forest, which had a helicopter in the air for assessment.