JACKSON — The fire that destroyed three buildings at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum started by accident, the fire marshal said yesterday.
Mike Chaney, who is also the state insurance commissioner, said investigators believe the Nov. 13 fire started because hay was stacked too close to wall-mounted light fixtures on the upper floor of a barn.
“There were no code violations in the building,” Chaney said. “These buildings were thoroughly inspected within the last year and the wiring was sealed in conduit and well-maintained. The fire was an accident.”
Inmates who work at the museum stacked hay in the barn but were unaware of the light fixtures, Chaney said. Investigators found the fixtures emitted enough heat to ignite hay from the same load, he said.
The fire caused more than $2.5 million in property damage, Chaney said.
No people were killed or seriously injured. Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith said some rabbits did perish. Other animals that had been living at the museum, including goats and horses, were rescued and have been sent to farms or the Jackson Zoo.
The 39-acre museum is near Interstate 55 in north Jackson. The tourist attraction has dozens of wooden buildings, including some set up like an old-fashioned small town. The museum is a popular spot for school field trips, and several of its buildings are used for parties, charity events and other social gatherings.
The museum remains closed until Dec. 1 for cleanup. Private events that were booked before the fire will be held in other buildings at the museum before then.
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