MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — With two recent wildfires — one still burning — on Deer Island, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR) is reminding the public that Harrison and Jackson counties along the Coast have a burn ban in effect that prohibits any outdoor burning, including campfires.
Although there is no proof either of these fires was caused by people, both fires started in areas frequented by boaters and campers, according to the DMR.
Violation of a burn ban can result in fines up to $500. In addition, a person who recklessly causes a woods fire can face up to 90 days in jail. If the person is found to have acted willfully and maliciously, they face up to two years in the state penitentiary.
DMR along with the Army Corps of Engineers, Mississippi State University and others have been working over the past few months to restore land and vegetation to the island. This week, volunteers helped in this effort by replanting part of west Deer Island with sea oats and other coastal plants to help stabilize the sand recently dredged from the Mississippi Sound.
“These wildfires can easily destroy months of restoration work by killing young trees and shrubs that help hold the island together,” said Jeff Clark, DMR’s Coastal Preserves Manager. “Even after the burn ban is lifted, we ask the public to restrict campfires to near the high tide line and make sure the fires are completely extinguished before leaving.”
Unless a wildfire is threatening human life or other important resources, there is no reason to put firefighters at risk to extinguish the fire. It can just be allowed to burn itself out.
The current wildfire on Deer Island falls into this category. Yesterday the DMR reported this wildfire east of Grand Bayou might continue to burn for two or three more days.
Deer Island is one of the state’s 20 Coastal Preserves, which include the islands and large mainland marsh areas of coastal Mississippi. Most of the island was purchased in 2002 with both state funds and federal funds from the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program. More than 90 percent of the 400-acre island is owned by the state and is open to the public for recreation.