The entire Pearl River County, Mississippi County Wildfire Protection Plan is available for download by clicking HERE.
Pearl River County is located in the southwest portion of Mississippi, adjacent to Louisiana. It is rural in character, with the City of Picayune being the largest incorporated municipality. The City of Poplarville, located in the northern portion of the county, is the only other incorporated area. The county is strategically located near Stennis Space Center and Interstates I-59 and I-10. Interstate 59 and US Highway 11 traverse the county north to south, border to border, providing direct access to the City of Hattiesburg to the north and the City of New Orleans, Louisiana to the south. State highways located within the county are 43, 53, 603, and 26. The Pearl River serves as the region’s western border.
The population of Pearl River County in 2000 was 48,621, an increase of 25.6% since 1990. This most recent increase is part of a larger growth cycle spanning many decades. U. S. Census Bureau 2010 population estimate was 61,216, but officials now estimate that Pearl River County’s population has nearly doubled, from approximately 50,000 to 100,000+ residents, since Hurricane Katrina devastated Gulf Coast communities in August of 2005. This phenomenal population increase is attributed to evacuees from Lower Hancock County, Mississippi and Louisiana relocating to Pearl River County. Respectively, residents relocating to Pearl River County are estimated at 40% from Hancock County and 60% from Louisiana. There are now seven (7) FEMA trailer sites housing evacuees in the county. This is placing a tremendous strain on the county’s infrastructure, police and fire departments and this trend is expected to continue. Additionally, there are 13 new subdivisions being developed that will contain approximately 900 new homes.
Pearl River County contains 819 square miles, with land largely held by private landowners. Approximately 65% of county land area is located within commercial forests. A large number of lakes, ponds, creeks, and rivers are found in Pearl River County, comprising a total of 7.6 square miles. Public lands include the Desoto National Forest, Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge, Pearl River County Game Refuge, Pearl River State Wildlife Management Area, Wolf River Game Management Area, and Walkiah Bluff Water Park. Notable features include Old Tar Landing, Gum Pond Landing, and the Crosby Arboretum. The Tiger Hammock Site near Picayune is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Two designated Mississippi Landmarks are located in Pearl River County: the Brick by Brick Memorial and the Pontoon Bridge Battalion Memorial; both are monuments to American veterans.
The climate of Pearl River County is mild with mean annual temperatures in the upper 60’s. Average winter temperatures range from 47 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit; average January temperature is 47 degrees. Summer temperatures range from 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, with an average July temperature of 81 degrees. Rainfall averages approximately 42.2 inches annually with the majority of the accumulation from July to September. County wind speeds are generally less than 10 miles per hour but often increase during storms. Thunderstorms occur frequently and are sometimes accompanied by strong to severe winds, including tornadoes.
Because of relatively high annual precipitation amounts, Pearl River County is not usually prone to property-damaging wildfires. However, occasional drought-like conditions prompt fire service officials to issue bans against burning, and encroachment of urban development into wildlands becomes more of a concern. Since the beginning of 2007, fire activity has been concentrated primarily in those parts of the United States that have experienced drought and abnormally dry conditions. Drought conditions contribute to an enhanced risk of wildfires affecting populated areas in Pearl River County. For the Southeast region of the United States, the first 6 months of the year have been persistently dry. In fact, December 2006-May 2007 has been drier than average for 7 of the past 9 years. Mississippi had the driest December-May in their 113-year record. The latest U. S. Drought Monitor report (December 4, 2007) indicates that Pearl River County is not currently considered to be in a drought condition.
While climate conditions and debris can cause ignitability, certain industrial operations and facilities can also raise the threat of wildfire. Major transportation arteries through Pearl River County including Interstate 59, Interstate 10, and US Highway 11 are used daily to transport flammable, toxic and/or explosive materials, thus exposing the county to potential transportation incidents involving hazardous materials. In addition, there are several natural gas and oil pipelines that are located throughout the county as well as a pumping station, propane storage facilities and a transfer station. Volunteer Fire Departments within the county serve as first responders if an incident involving hazardous materials occurs.
Pearl River County is divided into twelve rural fire response areas covering the unincorporated portions of the county. The 12 fire districts/response areas are manned by volunteers who act as first responders to the fires within the county. These rural fire response areas are: Amackertown, Carriere, Crossroads, Derby/Whitesand, Henleyfield, McNeill, Nicholson, North Central, Northeast, Pine Grove, Southeast, and Steephollow. All Fire Response Areas within the county, including Station Location(s), and Number of Volunteers, are listed below. Total number of volunteers is based on current staffing levels, but seasonal fluctuations occur.