Fire’s fumes not hazardous, state says|[03/26/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It does not appear that area residents were exposed to hazardous fumes from Monday’s fire along Sherman Avenue, state environmental officials said.

Crews contracted by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality were working late Tuesday to keep the ground wet in a field near the 1000 block of the road where debris was ignited.

Anti-dumping ordinances on county books will be the likely tool of enforcement, MDEQ spokesman Brad Mayo said.

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“It will be a local issue,” Mayo said, adding inspectors on the ground found no evidence of hazardous materials present in the 2- to 3-acre area about a half mile beyond city limits. Sherman Avenue links U.S. 61 North and North Washington Street.

Charred among the debris were cars, car tires and roofing shingles, a mix of materials releasing smoke visible through Tuesday.

In Warren County, illegal dumping carries a fine of $500. Within municipal boundaries of Vicksburg, fines reach up to $1,000 and jail time.

However, it remained unclear which of two property owners would be fined if the county enforces its ordinance against improperly disposed solid waste. Rather, county officials focused on completely containing the smoldering blaze.

“We’re trying to get the immediate problem solved, which is to get the fire out,” Warren County Fire Coordinator and Environmental Officer Kelly Worthy said. The wind “keeps the fire stirred up.”

Worthy kept open the likelihood of fines for one or both property owners, but declined to elaborate.

According to the National Weather Service, southwest wind gusts in Vicksburg reached more than 20 miles per hour Tuesday.

Warren County has no zoning or land-use guidelines governing the nature of what is stored on private property. In the past and now, county officials only have maintained clearance of public rights of way.

The fire was contained before reaching nearby portions of the Vicksburg National Military Park.