Dangerously dry conditions are behind several wildfires in MS.

In less than three weeks, 120 wildfires have broken out across Mississippi. And Rankin County has become the latest to prohibit outdoor burning. Burn bans are in effect now in eight counties and four cities as one of the driest Septembers on record draws to a close. The Mississippi Forestry Commission says the fall wildfire season usually doesn't begin until October but because of the drought, it's gotten off to an early start this year. Across most Mississippi, it would take six to seven inches of rain to bring the soil moisture back to normal.

Harrison County Fire Service will be conducting a controlled burn Friday beginning about 9:30 a.m. The burn will be in District 2 near Riverline Drive and West Wortham Road and Shaw Road. The Mississippi Forestry Commission will be assisting with the burn. “Due to the dry conditions, we have had four or five brush fires in that area in the past few days that have burned several hundred acres,” Harrison County Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said. “Although we do not have a burn ban in effect, we really want to encourage people to use extreme caution if they have to start a fire.”

It's still not clear if Anna Russell is the first Mississippian to die of a vaping-related lung illness.  The State Health Department won't identify the person who died except to say it was someone under the age of 30. Russell was 27 when she died in Smithville last week. The Monroe County coroner who said her death may have been vaping-related still hasn't gotten the autopsy report. The person who died brings to four the number of Mississippians who've developed severe lung problems after vaping. The Health Department says three of those had a history of THC vaping.

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has issued an Endangered / Missing Child Alert for a 17-year-old Hinds County Girl, who hasn't been seen since Sunday, September 22nd. The child has been identified as DeAidra Gibbs of Jackson. She is described as African American, five-feet-six-inches tall and weighing about 140 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. She was last seen about 3:40 a.m. Sunday in the 56-hundred-block of Angie Drive. Anyone with information is asked to contact Jackson police.

The car belonging to an autistic Louisiana teenager, who has been missing since last Wednesday, has been located along the Alabama / Mississippi state line. The vehicle, described as a white 2001 Eldorado Cadillac, was found near Franklin Creek in Southeast Mississippi. Authorities continue to search for 19-year-old Noah Daigle of Ponchatoula, Louisiana. Family members told police he may be headed to Parris Island, South Carolina. A 35-hundred dollar reward is being offered for the teen's whereabouts.

Storm and flood victims in eight counties can get some help today in applying for federal disaster assistance. FEMA is opening recovery centers in Vicksburg and Columbus to guide applicants through the process. More than 12-hundred people may be eligible for grants and other forms of assistance after tornadoes in northeast Mississippi and backwater flooding in the Delta in February and March.

Southern Miss today is launching a fundraising campaign to provide better services for military veterans. More than 17-hundred student-veterans, service members and their families attend the university and have outgrown the facilities they now have. The USM Foundation is hoping to raise millions of dollars for the new Center for Military Veterans.

A jury in Poplarville says Victor Mitchell deserves life in prison for hatching a plot to kidnap and extort money from a Hattiesburg billionaire. The jury convicted Mitchell yesterday and sentenced him. Prosecutors say Mitchell had conspired with two other men to take Tommy Duff, sexually assault him and then threaten to release video of the attack unless he was paid. But the plot in 2016 was foiled when one of the men went to police. Duff and his brother own ten businesses in the Pine Belt and he's a member of the State College Board.

If you're planning a visit to the Jackson Zoo, better hurry. It'll be closing next week temporarily. The city is in the process of hiring a new management company for the zoo, but it needs a federal license before it can take over. And, the current operators can't afford to keep the zoo open past Monday. It could be closed for up to two months.

The City of Hattiesburg has unveiled a number of Public Charging Stations at several locations around town for people in wheelchairs. Mayor Toby Barker says there are a total of nine electric wheelchair chargers positioned at various locations in public spaces like parks. The idea for the public charging stations are being credited to the late Kaity Grenn, who passed away in July.

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For a behind-the-scenes look at these stories and more of the days top news, here's video of this Sep. 27th edition of "Gulf Coast Mornings with Kelly Bennett and Uncle Henry":

 
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