JACKSON — At least two buildings were destroyed but no people or animals were killed or seriously injured as a large fire burned yesterday evening at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson, the state agriculture commissioner said.
Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith said it was not immediately clear what sparked the fire, which started about 5 p.m. More than 50 Jackson firefighters were battling the blaze about two hours later, with temperatures just above freezing.
Hyde-Smith said a maintenance shop and barnyard were destroyed, and one worker was being treated for an arm injury that was not life-threatening. Animals that live at the museum, including mules, goats and horses, were rescued.
Footage shot from a helicopter for WLBT-TV showed flames shooting high into the sky in the first hour after it started. The flames were considerably smaller later, but firefighters remained on the scene.
The 39-acre museum is near Interstate 55 and another busy road in north Jackson. The fire burned during rush hour as thousands of commuters drove home.
The tourist attraction has dozens of buildings, many of them wooden. They include a dozen replica and historic wooden buildings set up like an old-fashioned small town. The museum features an old church, machinery from a cotton gin built in 1892 at Cannonsburg, near Natchez, and a general store built in Camden in 1905. Replica buildings include a printing press.
The complex cost $3 million to build on land donated in 1978. Half the money came from the state and half from private donations, according to the museum’s website.
Hyde-Smith said it was too early to assess a dollar value for the property destroyed.
“We’re ag folks. We’re strong,” she said in a live interview on WLBT. “We can figure out a way to keep doing this.”
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.
Bern Prewitt, a member of the museum’s board of directors, said he had been trying to learn the extent of the damage from his home in Boyle, about 100 miles from Jackson.
“They have some mules and some cows, chickens — just all kinds of farm animals,” Prewitt said.
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