Lumberton woman claims Co. and state failed to protect home

LUMBERTON, MS (WDAM) - A Lumberton woman claims the county and state let her down by failing to protect her home from a major fire in nearby woods.

Cynthia Walker said she is angry and feels let down by the folk's she trusted to save her home from a forest fire Sunday morning..

"The Fire Chief said to me before I briefly left my house, that his job is to make sure that this house doesn't burn down."

Walker had family business to attend to, she left thinking the Southwest Volunteer Fire Department and the Mississippi Forestry Commission had everything  under control, but when she returned, she fund the exact opposite.

"It was just a mess, fire just blazing."

Nearly 45 minutes after Walker left, her daughters showed up and found the home up in flames and no fire fighters on the scene.

Lamar County Fire Coordinator, George Stevens said when the crew left, the fire was under control.

"From what I understand, it was close to the house and the Forestry Commission tied into where it had already burned and circled the fire to contain it. The fire fighters cleared the scene and after that, the grass re-ignited, that's when it involved the trailer."

Walker said, "the state was back in there, I could hear them saying, the fire is getting out of control. He was talking to the chief. Why would you leave? Why would you leave?"

It's a tragedy Walker said could have been avoided, if the Forestry Commission would have  protected her home, by digging a wider trench and responders would have stuck around to make sure they did it. According to Walker, the Fire Chief assured her no one would leave her home unprotected.

"He said before I leave, I am going to make sure  the state has a trench going around the whole house."

Steven's added, "they felt they left the scene secured, that's not to say there wasn't one ember left that they didn't detect and the wind picked up and set the fire."

"The problem that I have," said Walker, "there is no trench, the fire just came on in. You can see that the fire was already in my yard. Why would the fire department not stay, as bad as that fire was? The state was telling them, this fire is out of control."

Stevens and The Mississippi Forestry Commission said nearly 38 acres of land burned in that neighborhood on Sunday, and they tried their best to protect Walker's home. Although they couldn't save it, they are investigating the cause.

Russell Bozeman, Director of Forest Protection and Information said late this afternoon, "we responded with our tractor plow units, we ran a control line around the fire which was tied in with the volunteer fire departments location at the structure. Once we established it was controlled, we moved on to another fire in the area. The fire is under investigation by MFC Arson Investigators, to determine the ignition source.  We do the best we can to prevent  devastating wild fires.

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