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Fire near I-10 in Gautier creates heavy smoke and long delays, even as conditions clear

A fire burning in the Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge in Gautier sent smoke across the interstate Friday afternoon that made driving difficult and caused hours-long delays near Exit 61, Mississippi authorities said.

The fire’s scale was not immediately clear, but Gulfport Fire Capt. Jered Graham said Friday evening that the firefighters had contained the flames.

A crew is still out fighting the blaze, he said, and a Mississippi Department of Transportation traffic camera showed smoke had mostly cleared from I-10 just before 6 p.m.

The fire posed no threat to the interstate by Friday evening, Graham said. Authorities including the Mississippi Highway Patrol were in the area slowing drivers down, he said.

At 5:30, MDOT estimated delays near the exit would last up to four-and-a-half hours.

It is unclear what started the fire, but by Friday afternoon Gautier Police had issued a warning for all drivers to avoid the area near Frontage Road.

Traffic was being diverted to Martin Bluff Road Friday afternoon because of the flames and smoke, the fire department said.

This story will be updated.