County may get wildfire help

Published 12:04 am Friday, September 21, 2012

NATCHEZ — The Mississippi Forestry Commission told the Adams County Board of Supervisors on Thursday that when it comes to wildfires, help might be just a phone call away.

The supervisors asked representatives of the forestry commission to meet with them because the county had in recent years quit utilizing the services the forestry commission can provide in fighting wildfires, Supervisor David Carter said.

The director of fire services for the forestry commission, Russell Bozeman, said any help the commission could provide would not be an aid in fighting structure fires, but it might be of benefit to volunteer fire departments fighting grass fires or other non-structure-related conflagrations.

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“There are several programs available, but one of the strongest things you can do is just getting on the phone and giving us a holler when y’all start having issues,” Bozeman said.

The forestry commission has a pumper truck in Adams County, he said, as well as a spare firefighting tractor plow, though the plow is currently in use elsewhere.

One of the problems the forestry commission has had to deal with in deciding how to help local governments around the state is that volunteer fire departments often respond to wildfires but don’t report them to the forestry commission, Bozeman said.

“We value that relationship with volunteer fire departments greatly because they keep us from having to mobilize and getting out there to a grass fire that is less than an acre in size,” he said.

“When they get a call of a grass fire in a certain area, they tend to know what (that area) looks like as far as brush and that kind of thing is concerned, and if they can go ahead and call us and let us know if we need to mobilize, it never hurts to give us a heads-up.”

Carter said he has personally responded to two fires he did not believe were reported.

Adams County Fire Coordinator Stan Owens said part of the problem of communication with the forestry commission was that through the years the Natchez Fire Department and the county’s volunteer departments became very good at responding to such fires and simply stopped reporting them.

“We need to at least notify the MFC of these fires, but not necessarily to request their help if it is not needed,” Owens said.

The forestry commission representatives said that just reporting the number of wildfires the fire departments respond to is not enough. Instead, they have a special report within the electronic fire-reporting module that asks questions about the fire.

Owens said the kind of questions asked in the reporting module can be answered only by someone who actually attended the fire.

Bozeman told the supervisors several federal access programs exist that can help volunteer departments get more equipment for fighting wildfires.

“I think as far as wildfires are concerned, Adams County has been covered fairly well, but it never hurts to have partners,” Bozeman said.

In other news, the supervisors voted to allow Purchasing Clerk Frances Bell to advertise for a new emergency 911-communication console.

The supervisors had previously advertised for the console, but the only bidder had not met specifications and the bidding period had expired.