Local firefighters double-team snowstorm
by Madasyn Czebiniak
Jan 30, 2014 | 2931 views |  0 comments | 64 64 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If there was one thing Jacksonville fire Chief Wade Buckner was thankful for during this week’s snowstorm, it was that he had all his firefighters at the station ahead of time.

In anticipation of the storm and more fire calls than usual, Buckner doubled his usual staff to 14.

The chief said his usual six to eight calls per day also doubled during the storm. His firefighters received 16 calls on Tuesday and 14 calls on Wednesday, three of which were structure fires. The department made around 30 runs between Tuesday and Wednesday, he said.

Jacksonville firefighters also helped get workers to Regional Medical Center and let stranded motorists wait out the storm at the station, the chief said.

“Having that additional staffing early on and having them already in the station rather than the way we normally operate ... that made a big impact,” Buckner said.

No one had been injured in the three fires that Buckner’s men responded to, and only one of the victims needed to leave his home to stay with family. The chief said Thursday that he was surprised the department didn’t respond to any fires that were caused by unconventional heating methods, such as people using ovens or portable heaters to warm their homes.

“We didn't experience a lot of that like we have in the past,” Buckner said. “Normally we have a pretty good spike during something like this.”

Bucker said he believed people weren’t having to resort to such methods because electrical power stayed on in Jacksonville.

“We haven't seen a whole lot of craziness in that regard this year,” he said.

Those with the Piedmont Fire Department also worked full-time during the storm, according to fire Capt. Cale Donaldson.

According to the captain, there were no injuries from the four fires his department responded to between Tuesday and Thursday. Like Buckner, Donaldson was surprised none were the result of unconventional heating methods.

“We got pretty fortunate,” he said.

Anniston fire Capt. Ray Thompson said his department answered just one fire call Tuesday and Wednesday. He was also surprised to not have any calls due to unconventional heating.

“I was expecting to have a couple but apparently people were a whole lot safer in what they did,” he said.

Joe Jankoski, chapter executive for the Calhoun Cleburne Chapter of the American Red Cross, said his agency wasn’t called on to help many victims during the storm. The Red Cross did provide food, clothing and shelter to a family whose home caught fire in Piedmont on Tuesday morning. But the agency mainly helped those stuck in their homes, Jankoski said.

“We didn’t hear as much about fires. The disaster response we had were people stuck in their homes without the ability to get food,” Jankoski said. “We had a family in Ranburne who had heat but they didn’t have food or water, and there was a couple in Jacksonville that we helped out last night.”

Red Cross workers also took formula and food to a pregnant woman stuck in her Ohatchee home Thursday morning, Jankoski said.

Unlike those with Anniston and Oxford emergency departments, Jacksonville and Piedmont’s fire and police departments said they did not see much of a lag in their response time.

Thompson said his Anniston Fire Department still answered every call, even with a delayed response time. Ice on the roadways slowed down the department’s trucks, even with chains on their trucks, he said.

“That snow was real light and it would blow away but once it got packed down and it turned to ice it was horrible and it was everywhere, especially on some of the back roads where the trees were,” he said. “Some of it’s out right now still.”

Thompson said firefighters were able to get cots from Stringfellow Hospital and sheets from the Salvation Army for people who needed to spend the night at the fire station. They also helped more than 200 schoolchildren get home Tuesday.

Piedmont’s fire engines also ran with chains on their tires and the city’s police brought out their three military surplus vehicles. Piedmont police Chief Steven Tidwell said his department’s response time decreased a little because of the road conditions, but not tremendously.

Donaldson shared his sentiments.

“You had to be a little more cautious, naturally, because of the ice,” the captain said, adding that it wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be.

Piedmont firefighter Kyle Webb said he didn’t really notice a difference between a normal call and the calls his department answered during the storm.

“It was just cold,” he said.

Staff writer Madasyn Czebiniak: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @MCzebiniak_Star.

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