Archive for February, 2011

Move to the Right for Sirens and Lights…

This video is provided by the Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Department. It seems that moving over for the fire and EMS service has gone away because those guys can’t write you tickets. Always move to the right for sirens and lights because seconds count!

Thanks to Parke and Brenda for bringing attention to this video and for Captain Brooke’s calling my attention to it as well.

The Sisters are Together…

Some time ago Sumter County residents voted to fund a fire tax that would be based on all property in the county.  This tax began to impact departments in most areas of the county in late 2000.  Since that time departments in the area have made significant progress to retire aging vehicles and to place good equipment in service to make operations safer for firefighters and greatly improve the service offered to the citizens protected by our departments.  While the amount of money is not tremendous, many departments were wise stewards of the people’s money and purchased items that would have a significant impact on safety and service.  Before the tax many agencies in Sumter County were operating with equipment that was older than the average member of their departments.  Only departments that were located in municipal settings were in better shape.  The corner had been turned and the departments as a whole were climbing, but not very fast.  

In 2001, the federal government placed the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program on the map and solicited applications from fire departments in the United States.  The amount of money that first year was small and very few of the applications submitted were award, but the flood of applications indicated that there was indeed a problem in the American Fire service that was not being met on the local level.  Since that time departments in South Sumter have aggressively pursued grant funding from the AFG program and from any other source that we could locate.  The AFG program has brought all sorts of new equipment to the area and all items have been sorely needed.  Before the grant program firefighters were wearing outdated PPE (personal protective equipment) and using SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatuses) that were outdated and in many cases aging.  Thanks to the grant program the fire service in South Sumter has new equipment and has been able to get ahead of the equipment replacement cycle by using their tax money skillfully.  The AFG program has also brought a state of the art communication system and some much needed by very expensive equipment like thermal imaging equipment to the area.  Lastly, the program has brought apparatus to the area that allowed us to retire and refit a tired and aging fleet.  That brings us to the sisters…  Over the past two grant cycles, departments in South Sumter have received three tankers.  These big trucks do much more than wear red paint and look great.  They provide something that every firefighter needs t do their jobs effectively.  The three tankers provide a combined lift capacity of 7,200 gallons of water.  This a large amount of water and in most cases is sufficient to do the job.  These tankers and their engine counterparts are allowing the men and women of the South Sumter area Fire Service to do a much better job of saving lives and property.  Gone are the days of the fire truck leaving your burning home to search for a hydrant.  The fleet of tankers will keep a steady supply of water coming to the scene.

The progress made has been huge, but it is not enough.  The departments that make up the South Sumter area are working hard on grant applications for the coming cycle and hope to see a few more vehicles replaced as well as some equipment purchases to round out a few weak areas.  Most importantly, the departments in the area need men and women who wish to serve their community in a time of need.  It is imperative that we have new members in the next year.  All a person has to do is be willing to serve and we will handle the rest.  The departments offer a comprehensive in-house training program that results in a new member possessing a national certification at the completion of the course.  In addition, the departments offer members workers compensation insurance and the satisfaction of knowing that YOU made a difference in your county and the lives of your neighbors. 

The first of the tankers to arrive was the Whitfield unit.  It carries 2,200 gallons of water and is fully equipped to work as an engine or a tanker.


The second of the tankers to arrive in the area found its home at Siloam.  This tanker carries 2,500 gallons and is equipped to deliver water or stand and fight.

The last to arrive was the Ward FD Tanker.  This unit also carries 2,500 gallons and is equipped in a similar fashion to the other trucks.  Infact, all three were equipped in nearly identical fashion so that members of the various departments would have little trouble operating or finding equipment on the trucks.

Each unit has a dump valve in the rear that allows the tank to be dumped into the drop tank that is carried on the truck in a matter of minutes.  The engines that serve with these tankers are capable of “feeding” from these tanks while the tankers themselves return to a source of water.

Our Condolences to Toomsuba Fire and Rescue

The firefighters of South Sumter wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to our brothers and sisters at Toomsuba Fire and Rescue.  Nothing we can say or do will make the loss easier to bear, but know that we are here and praying for your department. 

Toomsuba Firefighter Larry Gresset, Jr., answered his final call on 2-17-2011.

Caution with Space Heaters…

The USFA statistics indicate that eletrical fires in homes kill around 310 americans each year.  Many of those fires are caused by the high demand space heaters place on the eletrical system in the average home.  Improper use of heaters and and failure to adhere to safety rules when using heaters also account for many structure fires across the country in the winter.  The USFA stats also show that the months of December, January and February have the largest number of residential fires in the average year.  The fire departments protecting the South Sumter area urge our citizens to exercise caution when using space heaters in this extremely cold weather. 

This picture is a classic example of what happens when space heaters are placed too close to furnishings and other combustible items.

For more information contact your local fire department or visit

Precip Changing to Rain?

The precipitation over the Sumter County area has turned to rain even though conditions at the ground are freezing.  The rain is melting the snow at the ground but could be causing some freezing rain issues.  Here at the office we have recording nearly 1 inch of snow, and now that the changeover has occurred we have received .04 of the liquid variety.  The precipitation should last for about another hour and then taper off.  It looks quite possible that the winter storm may miss the area.

Weather Update @ 1700…

The potential winter storm is getting wrapped up and is beginning to impact the area already.  There has been light to moderate sleet the past 30 minutes and the temperature is beginning to fall quite rapidly with precipitation beginning to fall and the sharp cold front preparing to move through the area.  The radar tells the story and the forecast from the NWS Birmingham is still on track to verify.  If anything the snow totals might be a little on the low side if conditions continue to change as rapidly as they are (as I am typing this the temperature has fallen another 2 degrees).  Roads should be in good shape until the precipitation gets heavy.  The temperature going up as high as it did today has warmed the infrastructure and should help keep the roadways in decent shape for a while.  Bridges and secondary roads will be another story.   The bottom line is to avoid travel if at all possible.


Radar showing the frontal position and precipitation return.  It should be noted that we are seeing a few convective bands below the I 20 corridor in Mississippi.  If the temperature continues to drop that type of activity can really drop some snow on the area.

Dewpoint and temperature graph here at Cuba.  The temperature is below 40 now, just about 15 minutes after taking this shot, and the dewpoint is hanging out near 30.1.

Birminghams snowfall projections. 

ABC 33/40 meteorologist James Spanns projections.  They match nicely with the NWS totals.  My gut feeling is that someone in the central Alabama area is going to get quite a bit more than forecast.

Another Round of Winter Weather…

This has been a winter to remember for winter weather threats in the area.  The past two years have featured colder than normal temperature readings and numerous threats of wintry precipitation.  The South Sumter area is in the bulls-eye for another Winter Storm that will strike the area this evening and overnight.  The current projections call for this area to receive two to three inches of snow.  With temperatures in the 20s this could cause some travel problems and this will likely be the largest impact from the event.  As we have seen from the past few systems the roads in this area hold up well, but the bridges become problematic early.  Here are the current charts and forecast information as of this morning.


The South Sumter area is colored in yellow with the warnings and radar overlay on top. This image gives and idea of the conditions just after 0800 this morning. There is a good snow ongoing over Arkansas and as the day goes on the precipitation will continue to spread East.  Sumter County and counties along the US 80 corridor are part of the warning and counties to the south are under a watch. 

This is the NAMs thinking for the system.  The NAM(12Z) is slower than the other models and a little wetter, but we can’t discount its solution since it has been rather consistent.  This look is for 06Z (0000 local time) Thursday.  If this verifies the totals may not be high enough.

Below is the GFS (06Z) for the same time period. Other than the intensity of the precipitation they are in agreement. 

NWS Jackson’s projected totals to our west. 

Birmingham’s Graphic Cast for this afternoon. 

This graphic is for the evening hours.  The moderate band of snow is likely to set up in the Sumter County area.

Accumulation projections from Birmingham

Last but not least are the projections from James Spann.  His product matches up nicely with the NWS Birmingham idea.  One item that should be noted is that somewhere in the heavier snow area will be a pocket or two of higher totals. 

Stay Tuned!

Potential Winter Weather Event

The South Sumter area will likely be impacted by some form of winter weather during the next 24 hours.  The two national weather service offices that cover the area are not in agreement over what the system is likely to do.  The NWS Jackson has the I20 corridor under a Winter Storm Warning (including the Meridian area) and the NWS Birmingham has not such warning in effect, and maintains only a Freezing Rain advisory.  It should also be noted that the NWS Mobile has a Winter Storm Watch in effect for a large portion of South Alabama (including Choctaw).  The system appears to be gathering some intesity off to the west and air temperatures are not making much headway in the area with the weather station at Cuba recording 28.5 as this statement is prepared.  Here are the graphics that will tell the story a lot better than typing all of the products.

Current NWS radar indicating heavier precip about to enter the area.  The ground temperatures are hovering about 28 to 30 so the precip is falling in a solid form.

Current NWS Composite for the SE US.

Birmingham still believes that the threat is rather minor.  Based on the recent winter storm events I would say Birmingham may have the best handle on this.

Jackson continues to believe that the event will be of a more significant nature.

Expected accumulations from Jackson.