Volunteer firefighters were confronted with a literal firestorm along Oktibbeha County Lake late Tuesday afternoon as winds from an approaching storm system fanned a wildfire into what a top fire officials described as a "spectacular" blaze.
A neighbor reported what was initially a grass fire at 1692 Bunton Drive by the lake at 4:54 p.m. Tuesday, and arriving Adaton-Self Creek volunteer firefighters soon found much more than that.
"The firefighters found a number structures fully engulfed in fire amid extremely windy conditions that blew flames across the road and into the woods," said County Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said. "We literally had a firestorm for a few minutes until we were able to get it under control."
Bell Schoolhouse and Maben volunteer firefighters quickly arrived on the scene to assist those from the Adaton-Self Creek department and helped get the fire largely extinguished in about half an hour, Rosenhan said.
"Because this was a dead-end road, we had some trouble maneuvering the water trucks into the area, but we got it done," he said. "Once we got the bulk of the fire out, we had a lot of hot spots to deal with and had to go into the woods about 100 yards to put out some trees and some pine needles, leaves and grass on the ground that were burning."
Though a small mobile home believed to be vacant and two outbuildings were destroyed, no other homes were damaged in the blaze, Rosenhan said.
"If we hadn't gotten the fire out, the pine needles and other ground cover would have ignited the way the wind was blowing and would have gotten in those houses," said Rosenhan. "We were able to protect the houses."
The rainfall from Tuesday's storm system did provide some help for firefighters, Rosenhan said.
"As we got things under control, the rainfall did help somewhat," he said.
The cause of the blaze remains under investigation, but fire officials are examining whether lightning, an electrical line problem from the high winds and a report of unattended garbage fire as possible causes.
In an unrelated incident, Sturgis volunteer firefighters responded to a fire about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday near the sawmill, Rosenhan said. They found a trash fire and quickly extinguished it, he said.
Though some rain fell on Tuesday afternoon and evening, it was not sufficient to lift the burn ban that has been imposed across the state by Gov. Haley Barbour. A burn ban has also been imposed inside the Starkville city limits by the Starkville Fire Department.
Local and state fire officials have said "a significant rainfall" â€” one that is prolonged and saturates the ground â€” will be necessary before the ban is lifted.