Tonight the South Sumter group met together at the Ward Fire house to enjoy spending time with each other, games and of course – food!! So many times those that respond to the calls for help see each other on scene, at training sessions and during meetings, but the families rarely have the time spend just enjoying each other’s company. Hopefully, we will be able to have more of these times of fellowship where we can enjoy some friendly competition, share some laughs and watch our children grow. After all, we are working on the next generation of first responders/firefighters! Thank you to everyone who came, brought food, helped with set up and clean up!
South Sumter departments – Cuba, Siloam, Ward, Whitfield, Kinterbish and Morning Star along with Pennington VFD participated in a tanker training session in the Whitfield community. The departments learned how to work with drop tanks, connect to dry hydrants and transport the water to other tankers in order to use it on scene. This is especially important in areas where conventional water supply is unavailable or compromised. Today’s training is useful when multiple departments are needed to respond to the call at hand. In emergency situations where this type of response is needed, time is of the essence. This drill proved that large quantities of water can be moved quickly and further practices will only increase our efficiency of response time.
Morning Star Fire Department was dispatched to a reported structure fire this morning on County Road 19. Automatic Aid was dispatched from York, Siloam and Cuba Fire Departments. Morning Star and York units arrived on location and mounted a quick attack on the fire and held the fire to the room of origin and prevented major damage to the dwelling. All departments in the southern portion of Sumter County drill together on a regular basis so that on emergencies like this firefighters know how to effectively work together to serve the public.
On Monday, February 8, 2016 Cuba VFD was paged out for a structure fire just off Old Highway 80. With the automatic aid in place, other departments in the South Sumter area were paged as well. Lt. Josh Reid was first on scene in Cuba Engine 2 to find a shed completely engulfed in flames. The wind was high that day so it was a welcome sight when other departments arrived on scene. The quick response of Cuba VFD, Morning Star VFD, Siloam VFD, Ward VFD and York VFD allowed the blaze to be contained quickly and prevented the fire from spreading into the surrounding woods. Great job to all volunteers who responded – many hours of training put to good use when it was necessary!
Dry Hydrant installed in the Whitfield Community.
All fire departments in Alabama, whether they are paid or volunteer, are rated on a cyclical basis by the Insurance Service Office. The ISO inspection looks at the department’s training and equipment as well as the water system that services the area. It was often the case that one or the other of the inspected areas would keep a department form achieving a better score. The fact that the rating schedule was the same regardless of the department type made it difficult for many volunteer fire departments to lower their ratings. For many years most departments in the area maintained a class nine rating or split ratings down to a six. The split rating system placed one rating on properties that were within five miles of a station and 1000 feet of a fire hydrant. In many cases this meant that those who live in rural areas would never receive the lower rating and insurance providers could charge them the higher rate. This trend began to be reversed in 1999 when Sumter County Voters approved the property tax that was directed at the volunteer fire service. All departments in Sumter County began receiving $16,000 or so each year from this tax. This money was applied to the modernization of equipment, apparatus and training enhancements at most departments.
In the fall of 2015, the ISO visited Sumter County and inspected nine of the municipal and volunteer fire departments in the county. The South Sumter area had three departments that were inspected during this visit and each agency received a major improvement in the score for their area. Cuba, Siloam and Ward Fire Departments were the departments that were inspected. The old rating for Cuba had been a 6/9 and residents in area that are within a 1,000 feet of a hydrant received the 6 rating. The new rating for Cuba is a 5/5x which places any address within five miles of the station at the new rating. Plans are underway to achieve next rating of a 4/4x within the next two years. The score should not be difficult to achieve with the groundwork that has been put in place by the officers and firefighters.
Siloam had a rating of 7/9 before the visit and Siloam has dropped to a 5/5x as well. This represents a substantial drop in the rating due to the small number of hydrants that are found in the Siloam area. The hard work of the fire department officers and firefighters as well as the massive investment in a new engine and a new tanker have allowed the department to receive the much improved rating. Siloam is working toward the next rating and plans to have ISO back within the next two years.
Ward Fire Department also had a rating of 7/9 prior to the inspection and dropped their rating to a 5/5x as well. The characteristics of the Ward area are similar to Siloam. The new rating is a combination of the work put in by members and the new apparatus that has been purchased. The Ward department is working to address issues that will allow it to drop its rating to the next level as well.
The largest deciding factor besides the departments working to have all members certified as firefighters and the new apparatus purchases has been the creation of an automatic aid/battalion system. No longer are departments in the South Sumter area having to handle calls as a single unit. When an alarm sounds pre-designated responses are put into action and up to three departments are dispatched on the initial call. If the call is in a rural area a tanker strike team is ordered to respond as well. In most cases this will bring sufficient manpower and just over 10,000 gallons of water to the scene of the fire in a reasonable period of time. The automatic aid system has allowed the departments to help each other and to cooperate to save lives and property as well as dollars on your insurance premiums.
Besides the financial shortages that plague departments operating on the small amount of money received, departments face a significant shortfall in the area of members and recruits. Please consider joining and serving your community through your local fire department. The departments are staffed by your neighbors and friends and could certainly use your assistance in protecting our homes and families.
South Sumter’s most recent training session had a great turnout with members from Morning Star, Cuba, Ward, Whitfield and Siloam. The SCBA/Interior Search session had Assistant Chief Fisher taking teams through entry procedures in various stages. After the firefighters were suited up in their gear, they were put into teams of two and led through the drill. The firefighters were taught the importance of communication with each other and proper search techniques. The firefighters not only trained with gear but they were put into a more natural fire scene setting by having their masks covered when they went through an additional time as they located and removed victims from the practice structure. Assistant Chief Holder gave the scenario to the firemen that were set for entry that a female had made it out of the structure, but her husband and daughter had not. As the firefighters began their search of the structure they found out the importance of noting what they felt, any exits and what type, and most of all communicating with one another. Once the firefighters had gone through the setting to retrieve victims, they went back through with fire hose to prepare for that difference on-scene. It was clear to those looking on that the trainers involved were there to help prepare firefighters for actual circumstances they could face at any time. It was evident as the training session occurred on a cool, clear day how much the conditions, heavy smoke and heat, can have an effect on a firefighter. Focus on the task of search and rescue is not something these members take lightly. Firefighters were able to ask questions throughout the session to help clarify how to proceed on any proposed circumstance.
Crews were busy with a structure fire on friday and several medical calls over the weekend. However, Sunday afternoon naps were destroyed with the sound of pagers and a reported structure fire in the Shaw Road area. First arriving units reported that it was a large grass fire with several structures threatened. Cuba Engine 2 and crew arrived and stood between the fire and an endangered home and barn with just seconds to spare. Before the fire was under control units from all South Sumter Fire Battalion stations other than Whitfield Fire were on location. Boyd Fire Department dispatched Tanker 1500 to the scene to provide support for units attempting to keep the fire from jumping the four lane. Crews from Morningstar and Kinterbish (backed by Ward and Siloam Tankers) made he stop in the median of US 80. The fire was brought under control shortly after 1500 hours. Cuba Police Officers Jeff Shaw and local resident Steve Holcombe assisted crews by plowing fire lines in before forestry arrived with their own tractors.
Early Friday morning the York Fire Department requested aid from units in South Sumter Fire stations. A tanker task force was dispatched from Siloam Fire and Ward Fire along with Tanker 1500 from Boyd Fire Department. Cuba Fire Department dispatched Engine 1 to stand back in the vicinity of York and Cuba to provide coverage for York and Cuba. The tankers provided water to the York Fire Department pumpers on location and the fire was quickly brought under control. Unfortunately, the property carried on the trailer was a complete loss.
Preparations are underway in the South Sumter area for the arrival of Tropical Storm Isaac along the Northern Gulf Coast. The current NHC forecast calls for landfall to be in the area of New Orleans late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. The forecast calls for the storm to come on shore as a category one or possible a category two storm. The problem with this storm is the size and reach of the eastern portion of the storm. The effects of the storm could be felt as far as 500 miles from the center of circulation on the eastern side of the storm. Thankfully, the winds have no been severe and hopefully that trend will continue in the outer rings. However, heavy rain and the potential for small tornadoes will be a threat to the area if the storm continues on its current forecasted track. See the official forecast track below along with the forecasted wind fields and the expected reach.
Remember that there are still models out there that don’t agree with the official track. The model shown below is the HRW model and it indicates that it expects the storm to be hitting the Mississippi and Alabama Coast in 43 hours. The models still have quite aspread on them, and we will simply have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.