Battling morning blaze a real group effort

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 24, 2007

Brookhaven and Lincoln County emergency response forces showedtheir mettle for real Thursday morning when a blaze engulfedseveral downtown buildings.

Brookhaven Fire Chief Bob Watts said he believed every man onhis force was on the scene. The call came in just a few hoursbefore shift change, so two shifts were on the scene; however, hesaid many of his off-duty firefighters reported to the blaze aswell.

“We’re always on call,” said Watts. “We called all the guys in,and I’m not sure we don’t have 100 percent of our force here.”

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Brookhaven Firefighter Aaron Welch was in Franklin County whenhe got the call at 5:40 a.m. He said he didn’t hesitate to head toBrookhaven, whether it was supposed to be a day off or not.

“It took me 20 minutes to get here,” he said. “When I firststarted, the chief told me this is my priority job. When they call,I’ve gotta be here.”

Firefighter Jeremy Robbins was planning on a day off, but hesaid it was a part of the job he loves.

“It’s what we do,” he said. “You get a call and you go. Theysaid the buildings were on fire downtown, and you’ve gotta go, noquestions asked.”

Meanwhile, Lincoln County volunteer and other area firedepartments were no less ready for the task of helping keep thearea safe.

“It was around 5:30 when I heard Bob (Watts) on the radio,” saidHog Chain Volunteer Fire Chief John Hart. “He said for us to get enroute, and most of my guys are out here.”

Hart said many of his firefighters are employed by the city, sothey were already getting up and ready for work.

“But what this really shows,” said Hart, “is how well we canwork together as a unit. It bodes well for the annexation.”

Hog Chain, New Sight, Zetus, Heuck’s Retreat and Loyd Star’svolunteer fire departments were all on hand to fight the fire, andsome of their firefighters also manned the city stations whileBrookhaven units were on the scene.

Meanwhile neighboring counties were quick to offer their help aswell.

“I came to the Central Station this morning and I’ve beenmanning it,” said Hog Chain’s Randy Jordan. “While I’ve been here,the McComb fire department called to see if we needed equipment orhelp, and Copiah County called to see if they could bring anythingdown, too.”

Brookhaven Police also responded to the scene quickly to handletraffic control, bringing as many units and officers as theycould.

Officer Bryan Cavin was directing traffic in plainclothes at theintersection of Whitworth Avenue and Court Street. It was supposedto be his day off as well.

“But it’s part of the job,” he said. “I don’t know what time Igot the call, but it was early. And you don’t ask questions, youjust go.”

Police Chief Pap Henderson said the response he got from hispolice force was outstanding.

“Our part is traffic control and blocking the intersections, andas far as my guys have done, it’s been excellent,” he said. “Thishas been an outstanding joint effort on everyone’s part, and it’scontinuing. We’ve got to he here until the danger is clear.”

Lincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey said hefelt recent training and drills had more than adequately preparedeach of the groups that responded for the jobs they had to dotogether.

“Everything has worked great,” he said. “The volunteerfirefighters did everything we’ve asked them to do and they did agreat job. I’m sure the city appreciated everything the volunteersdid and all the training and working together and getting to knoweach other really paid off today.”

Mayor Bob Massengill said what he saw in downtown Brookhaven wastruly an act of good will and hard work.

“When they talk about fighting fires, this is what they’retalking about,” he said. “These guys really are fighting.”