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Dry spell fuels Mississippi coast fires

/ Source: The Associated Press

The absence of significant rainfall in more than a month and downed vegetation from Hurricane Katrina helped feed a rash of brush fires on the Mississippi Gulf Coast this past weekend.

The cause of a Sunday morning fire in Gulfport at the abandoned Chemfax chemical plant is still under investigation. Officials suspect it started from a campfire that was not properly extinguished. The plant has become a haven to homeless people living in tents.

The county does have a burn ban, which has been in effect for several weeks. Hancock and Jackson counties also have burn bans.

"A burn ban is in effect not only because of dry conditions that we've had, but brush and downed trees from the hurricane intensifies the fire and makes it more dangerous," said District Chief Donald Knox with the Gulfport Fire Department.

Fire crews worked for two hours Saturday to control a wildfire, believed to have been a trash fire which got out of control. The blaze destroyed nearly 500 acres and forced some residents from their Hancock County homes.

Crews from Kiln, Fenton and Lee Town battled the blaze, which occurred about three miles north of Interstate 10.

Firefighters from West Hancock Fire and Rescue battled a blaze near Shoreline Park, and other workers were fighting a fire that occurred when a tractor-trailer truck overturned near Mississippi 607 and U.S. 90.

West Hancock Chief Kim Jones said residents fled their homes near the Jourdan River earlier in the day on Saturday when another fire burned until about 5 p.m.