Officials discuss importance of fire safety

Published 12:34 am Saturday, April 7, 2018


NATCHEZ — Just more than three months into this year, already three fire deaths have occurred in Adams County.

In the wake of Tuesday’s Gaylor Road house fire that killed Artiemese Harris-Frye, Natchez fire officials met to determine what can be done to stop that trend.

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“It’s too much to lose one person, but we don’t want to lose anybody else,” Natchez Fire Department Chief Aaron Wesley said.

Fire deaths declined by 10.5 percent nationally from 2006-2015, Federal Emergency Management Agency statistics show, but Wesley said 2018 has been “a tough year” across the state so far in terms of fire fatalities.

Looking to buck that trend, firefighters said one preventative measure residents could take is as simple as tidying up the house and getting rid of unnecessary items.

Not only does having these excess items around a residence allow a fire to spread more quickly, but also it can make entry into a residence more difficult for firefighters, Wesley said.

In addition to housekeeping, another simple measure is to install a smoke alarm within the house.

Two of the three burned houses in the county that led to deaths this year did not have fire alarms or smoke detectors, and firefighters have found no indication that the most recent instance involved a smoke detector either, Wesley said.

Smoke detectors have been a primary focus of the fire department, and Wesley said people without alarms could work with the Adams County Chapter of the Red Cross to potentially place one within their residence.

Another more holistic approach, Wesley said, is to have the fire department inspect your residence to ensure no fire hazards exist. While the fire department is required to perform inspections with Natchez businesses, they also will inspect private residences upon request.

But if a resident does not want to go that far, Wesley said they could even do the inspection themselves.

“We have created a self-home-inspection checklist,” Wesley said. “If they don’t want the fire department coming to inspect, we can actually give them a home checklist.”

The department has separate checklists for businesses and residences, NFD Operations Manager Conner Burns said.

These methods can be crucial to preventing residential fires, as the fire department can only do so much once fires reach a certain stage, Wesley said.

Still, the chief said he hopes to bolster his understaffed department with additional workers. With multiple vacancies, the fire department is now accepting applications, which are available at Natchez Fire Department stations, the City Council Chambers and the MS-WIN Job Center in Natchez. Applications are due April 27, and the civil service test will be held 2 p.m. on May 4 at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

For more information about fire deaths and ways to prevent them, visit the U.S. Fire Administration’s website at