Nations succeeds Calcote as Liberty Road fire chief

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 27, 2010

NATCHEZ — B.L. Calcote was reluctant to hand over the keys for his two children, a couple of ruby red fire trucks, but at 81 years old, he said it was about time.

Calcote, the former Liberty Road volunteer fire chief, knew his then-assistant chief, Keith Nations, would be ready to roll if a fire broke out in the area.

“I told him the other day — I said, ‘I will turn it over to you,’” Calcote said. “Over the last two years, he has been really faithful.

“If he wasn’t at work, he was here.”

For 14 years Calcote, who retired from the ministry in 2007, exhibited the same dedication to the Liberty Road Volunteer Fire Department.

“You have to be dedicated to this,” Calcote said. “You have to put it in your mind to keep up the work.

“And I enjoyed all of it, even though it was hard.”

Calcote said he would miss it, but at least he had the memories.

“I just have (firefighting) embedded in me,” Calcote said. “I am going to miss all of the job. It is something you just have to let pass on.”

When Calcote started volunteering, the Liberty Road station did not exist — fire crews rode out from the county barn. But Calcote worked with former Civil Defense Director George Souderes, and in the latter part of 1997, the Liberty Road station opened its hatches for crews to spill out and extinguish fires in the district.

“I decided to dedicate as much time as I could to make sure the community had a fire station,” Calcote said. “I was the first fire chief of Liberty Road, and I went until May 8 of 2010.”

Calcote baptized Nations when he was 8. They met again, this time as fellow volunteers, in 2006, when Nations decided to get involved.

“I’d known half of the Natchez Fire Department my whole life,” Nations said. “Someone told me that I needed to volunteer because they always need good people helping them.”

Even though the job can keep Nations out at all hours of the night, once he got involved, he fell in love with the job because of the feeling it gives him.

“If I can save one life, if I am able to save someone’s home, possessions — it means a lot to the community,” Nations said. “If you go in and get the dog or the cat out, people appreciate that. Animals are part of the family, too.

“When you go out to help out, it makes you feel good inside.”

Even if he can’t save the house, Nations said he still wants to be there to do what he can and console the victims.

“If there is anything I can do, I will,” Nations said. “If I get a call, I will help.”

When Nations goes out of town, he brings his radio and scanner so he can call and make sure someone is able to cover anything that happens.

“If a fire starts, it is my goal to make sure a truck is rolling,” Nations said.

Nations said he has a good relationship with the Natchez Fire Department.

“Anytime I get a call, they know I am going to respond,” Nations said. “We have even gone into downtown Natchez, to give them access to our water tanks.”

Nations said he also has a great working relationship with the other volunteer fire departments.

“We all cover each other’s backs,” Nations said.

Nations said his first goal as fire chief is to bring in more volunteers.

“We are dedicated to providing the best service possible to the citizens and neighborhoods surrounding Liberty Road,” Nations said. “My goal is to go door-to-door through my district and pass out fliers, and maybe someone will be interested.”

Firefighting is not just a man’s job, Nations said.

“A woman can do the same thing a man can do,” Nations said. “A woman is welcome if she wants to give back to her neighborhood.”

Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Nations at 601-870-5614.