Ball offers chance to have fun, raise money

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 18, 2000

Natchez residents will soon have a chance to kick up their heels at the third annual Firemen’s Ball — but the reason for the celebration is serious.

Proceeds from the event, organized by the Leadership Natchez Alumni, will help the Natchez Fire Department buy a new set of the &uot;Jaws of Life,&uot; valuable equipment needed to help rescue people trapped in their cars after a wreck.

&uot;They’re pretty expensive,&uot; said Natchez Fire Chief Gary Winborne. &uot;It’s a little hard to stick in your budget at the last minute.&uot;

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The Jaws of Life can cost between $12,000 and $15,000, Winborne said. The fire department already has one set, but it’s about 20 years old, he said.

&uot;We’re the only rescue unit in Adams County that has them,&uot; Winborne said.

Joe Garrity, secretary of the Firefighters’ Association, said the fire department has no backup equipment for the Jaws of Life.

&uot;If these Jaws break down or if something happens to them, we’ve got no backup,&uot; he said. &uot;I don’t know where the closest set is.&uot;

The equipment is used to help get victims from a vehicle that has been in a wreck. Spreaders and cutters are powered by a hydraulic pump and are used to remove doors and roofs or help move a dashboard, Winborne said.

Sometimes the equipment simply helps rescue workers get to a victim more quickly, Garrity said, and sometimes it means the difference between life and death.

&uot;Any time you can cut down helps,&uot; he said. &uot;There are a lot of advantages.&uot;

This year’s fund-raiser for the equipment carries on a tradition started by the Leadership Natchez Class of 1998.

In the past two years, Leadership Natchez classes helped raise money for a thermal imaging camera that helps firefighters locate victims in a fire. The fire department was able to buy the camera after last year’s Firemen’s Ball.

Kim Arnold, a member of the Class of 1999, said alumni wanted to continue to raise money for the fire department.

She said the alumni saw a need to help the fire department — and to provide an event for the community to enjoy.

&uot;We saw it as such a community event,&uot; she said. &uot;We had young and old, black and white, people of all ages that got along great at such a large function.&uot;

The Firemen’s Ball will be held from 8 to midnight Friday, March 24, at the Radisson Natchez Eola Hotel. The band Stomp Inc. will perform.

Tickets are $20 each and are available from any Natchez firefighter or from any member of the Leadership Natchez Alumni or the Leadership Natchez Class of 2000.