Volunteer firefighters are prepared to fight blaze thanks to AFG award
LAMAR COUNTY, MS -- A wall of smoke made it impossible to see through the windows, much less down the hall or in the bedrooms.
"There were people inside, and there was only seconds left before the scene became fatal," said George Stevens, Lamar County Fire Coordinator. "The crew had to act fast."
Oak Grove volunteer firefighter Russell Stone knew people were trapped inside but finding them meant he would have to search inch by inch.
After arriving on the scene of a trailer fire at almost 3 a.m. on Sept. 23, Stone talked with Purvis junior firefighter Jim Davison, who indicated people were lying on the floor in a bedroom. The crew knew they had to act fast because an average size trailer can be consumed in flames in less than 10 minutes.
"Larry led a left hand search pattern, and I grabbed his leg and followed," said Stone, referring to fellow Pine Ridge volunteer firefighter, Larry Boyles. "We located the victims in the bedroom face down on the floor and barely breathing."
Stone rolled the woman on her back, and with the help of Central Lamar volunteer firefighter, Bryan Johnson, pulled her to safety. Stone then returned to the bedroom to aid Boyles in rescuing the man still trapped in the house. After saving the couple, Boyles and Stone reentered the mobile home to extinguish the fire.
"It was really a close call for that couple," Stevens said. "They were right at the brink of death."
The fire, which started in the kitchen, was ruled accidental. The couple was taken to the hospital where they were treated for smoke inhalation and released several days later.
Four volunteer fire departments worked together to save the couple and extinguish the blaze: Oak Grove, Pine Ridge, Purvis and Central Lamar.
"It was a seamless effort," Stevens said. "Everything went great and we were able to save lives and property."
The cooperative event was further made a success because of the firefighting gear recently purchased thanks to an Assistance to Firefighter's Grant award. This is the first time the Lamar County fire departments have received an AFG award.
"The grant couldn't have come at a better time," Stevens said. "A rural department doesn't have that kind of extra money to buy equipment, even if it's needed."
The grant allowed the departments to replace and upgrade their current turnout gear. The new gear, including jackets, pants, boots, gloves and helmets were used when rescuing the couple from the trailer.
"Our old gear was worn out and needed to be replaced," Stevens said. "The new stuff got here just in time."
The old gear was being shared among firefighters because there wasn't enough to go around, Stevens said. In addition, they were ragged and didn't fit well because they had been used so often.
"That old gear had seen a lot of fires," Stevens added. "Now we have enough gear to serve our area better and offer mutual aid if people call on us."
AFG Funds Reach Beyond The Frontlines
Additional AFG funds were used to help firefighters prepare for the Candidate Physical Ability Test. The Lamar County firefighters held a training day in October for potential volunteer firefighters. The class is a prerequisite for NFPA 1001. Until now, the CPAT exam was only held at the Mississippi Fire Academy, in Jackson, MS, which is almost a three-hour drive from Lamar County. In addition, career firefighters are given preference over volunteers, which meant the volunteer-run departments were at a disadvantage.
"This opens up the door for departments like ours because we have a better chance of expanded our workforce," said George Stevens, Lamar County Fire Coordinator. "We were excited to see so many people show up and want to participate."
Fire Department Vital Statistics
- Name: Lamar County, MS
- Group: Lamar County Volunteer Firefighter
- Population: 4,470
- Neighboring Cities Population: 14,100
- Land Area: 497.07 square miles
- Lamar County has a total of 12 fire departments
- Grant: 2008 AFG
- Grant Amount: $120,764
What They Bought With The Grant:
- 13 turn out suits
- 8 SCBAs
- Instructor fees
- Refurbished Stairmaster
- Classes for EMT basics