By Jack Gurner
YALOBUSHA COUNTY – It’s brush fire season once again and firefighters have already been busy in both the city and the county.
Normally March is the really bad month for fires, according to the Mississippi Forestry Commission. Water Valley Fire Chief Mike Defer agreed, saying that around the first of March is his department’s busiest time of year.
County volunteer firefighters have been called out almost daily for the past week or so and sometimes the calls come one after another.
“We’ve had a number of fires scattered around the county. And, I feel like when it gets warmer, we are going to have a lot more,” said Frank Hyde, Yalobusha County’s Emergency Management Agency Director and County Fire Coordinator.
Dry vegetation, combined with low humidity and high winds increases fire risks this time of year. And, the warmer weather brings people outdoors making the risks even greater as they clean up their property and burn debris.
“Everybody needs to use common sense. If the wind is blowing they don’t need to be burning, period,” said Hyde.
“Everyone should be educated on the new laws. If you are burning and it gets away from you and burns your neighbors property, you are responsible,” added Hyde. “Any damage, you have to compensate them.”
If you are burning and the fire gets away from you, call immediately. “We need to get there as quickly as possible to minimize damage.”
“When a fire call goes out, volunteers have to respond from their workplace or homes. Someone has to get to the fire station, get the fire truck and drive it to the fire,” Hyde explained.
“The quicker we are notified, the quicker we can get to the station and the less the response time will be.”
Cell Phone Users
Hyde said that cell phone uses should take extra care when calling 911 to report a fire or any other emergency.
“If you are on a residential phone, we are going to know where you are. It’s going to put it up on a display in front of the dispatcher.”
However, there is currently no tracking available for cell phones in this area. And, a tower in another county may pick up cell phone calls if the user is near the borderline.
That happened recently when residents on Dogwood Drive in north Water Valley tried to report a brush fire in their neighborhood near the Lafayette County line. Initial calls went to the Lafayette emergency dispatcher.
Rhonda Ostrander, who herself works as a dispatcher for the Yalobusha County Sheriff Department, was one of those callers. “The public needs to be aware that the cell phone they have in their hand may not be a life line to help when needed,” she said.
Hyde said that cell phone uses should identify themselves and give the dispatcher as much information about location as possible, including what county you are in.
“Also, answer your phone, if you can, because the dispatcher may be calling you back as we are trying to get there. It helps to get back in touch with that person to make sure we are coming in the right way.”