Wildfire claims house, almost takes Magnolia City Airport

A wildfire rages near the Walker High School building on Hwy 79 in Magnolia. Traffic has been blocked out of the area, with Magnolia Mayor Parnell Vann issuing a public safety messages asking motorists to detour around Hwy 79 from the Rib Shack to the Country Club. Sheriff's deputies are directing traffic away from the scene of the fire at the Hwy 79/79B intersection south of Magnolia.

A fire that began about 8:30 a.m. today as a house fire went out of control and jumped Hwy. 79 south of Magnolia near the Walker School. Columbia County Sheriff Mike Loe reports that there were no injuries in the house fire – the resident was awakened by a third party who helped her in getting out of the home, Loe said. From that structure fire, the fire then jumped the highway and headed east toward the Magnolia Airport. Loe said the airport was nearly lost in the blaze, but fire crews were able to divert the flames to save the facility. Magnolia Mayor Parnell Vann reports that two city-owned tractors were lost in the blaze near the airport, including one that was just purchased recently by the city. Vann said fire departments trucks are now keeping a close eye on the airport’s hangars and fueling facilities. Residents of the area around the airport and the Walker School have been evacuated, and fire officials have had a few close calls with other homes in that area. Traffic is not being permitted through the scene at this time due to the heavy smoke across the highway and the need for complete free access for fire fighting crews. The Arkansas Forestry Commission has spotter planes in the air and several tractors on the ground. At this time, officials believe the blaze near the Walker School may be under control, but they are taking no chances. The Banner-News is the only media on-scene and has been reporting on the blaze throughout the day on its Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/BannerNewsMagnolia?ref=ts, and will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available. Read on to view more photos directly from the scene. 

Firemen battle a grass fire immediately adjacent to Walker School and near the Magnolia Airport as Columbia County Sheriff's Office deputies patrol the scene.

Columbia County Sheriff Mike Loe, leaning into the car, and Magnolia Police Department Chief Glenn Proctor, pointing, direct deputies, state troopers and police officers at the scene at the Walker School.

Magnolia Fire Chief Greg Pinner, in the white hard hat, directs fire crews from Claiborne Parish Fire District No. 3 at the scene. Emergency responders, both municipal and volunteer, were dispatched to the scene, including fire departments from Bussey-Sherman, Rudd's Crossing, McNeil and Haynesville, La.

Magnolia School District Superintendent Dr. John Moore keeps a vigilant watch over the woods behind the Walker School. Moore reported that the flames in the woods have reignited several times and he feared for the school building's safety.

Today's blaze once again claims a property that was lost to fire over the summer. The property is located at the Magnolia Municipal Airport turnoff from Hwy. 79.



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