Fire at Corps of Engineers barn estimated at $350K in losses

April 17, 2013 9:53:45 AM

Carmen K. Sisson - [email protected]


The War on Weeds is dead in the water -- for the moment, anyway.  


If this were a normal week, officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be out in their airboat, conducting aquatic weed surveys along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and delineating areas to be sprayed.  


But when a fire swept throughout the Corps' equipment barn on March 20, everything was lost, including the airboat, wildlife patrol boat, pontoon, two flat-bottomed skiffs, two four-wheelers and an all-terrain vehicle.  


Damages totaled approximately $350,000, operations project manager Rick Saucer said Monday, and until they get approval to purchase new supplies, many of their ordinary programs -- like aquatic weed control -- are temporarily on hold.  


The cause of the fire remains undetermined, but Saucer said the blaze may have been sparked by trickle chargers they used for their boat batteries. By the time Lowndes County volunteer firefighters responded to the barn on 750 Old West Point Road, there was nothing left to do but hose down the charred timbers and count the losses.  


The Corps' local office is responsible for maintaining 234 miles of the Tenn-Tom's navigation channel, along with 10 locks and dams, seven campgrounds and numerous boat ramps and day-use areas. Part of their job includes things like aquatic weed control and wildlife mitigation.  


While they can still handle most of their duties, they will be impacted by the fire for a while until they can buy new equipment and build a new supply barn, Saucer said. A timeline and course of action has not yet been announced.

Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.