March 12, 2014 10:25:42 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
Local and state investigators are looking into suspicious county fires after two recent blazes damaged abandoned structures, Oktibbeha County Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said.
Both incidents signify a growing trend of structure fires in the Blackjack community, he said.
East Oktibbeha County Volunteer Fire Department first responded to a structure fire Monday on Blair Road and then another fire on Fox Road. No injuries were reported from either blaze, and at least one of the structures was determined to be abandoned at the time of the fire.
EOCVFD Chief Greg Ball confirmed the State Fire Marshal will travel to Oktibbeha County today and assist deputies with the investigation.
Since Jan. 1, county officials have reported at least 11 structure fires, many of which occurred in EOCVFD's jurisdiction. Rosenhan said at least five of the fires occurred in abandoned structures, including a building previously owned by the Blackjack Water Association.
The cause of Tuesday's fire is still under investigation.
"It's worrying because of the number of fires and the fact that they're now happening during daytime. It's just a matter of time before we end up responding to an occupied dwelling," Rosenhan said. "It's also weird because (with at least five of the fires) nobody is around, and nobody is claiming that it's their property."
Despite an exodus of Mississippi State University students during spring break this week, Ball said the county fire-fighting manpower levels are strong, and firefighters are ready to respond to any additional calls.
Oktibbeha County allows controlled burns, Rosenhan said, as long as firefighters are notified in advance and the blazes are closely monitored.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch