People, Places & Events




PS firefighters honored at banquet
Monitor Staff Reports
PAYNE SPRINGS–In a more subdued gathering than usual, the Payne Springs Fire Rescue honored its members at the department’s annual awards banquet Saturday.
The department was struck by tragedy less than a week earlier with the Feb. 15 death of veteran firefighter and department board member Roger Yardley.
In addition, training officer Sean Kelsay was diagnosed with lung cancer late last year, and is undergoing chemotherapy.
Fire chief Randy Harley presented a special plaque to Yardley’s family in appreciation of his years of service to the department, which he joined in May, 1998.
Yardley picked up two tall trophies at last year’s banquet, and would have been awarded two more Saturday night, Harley said – he was the runner-up as top medical responder with 148 calls, and seventh among the top 10 fire responders with 104 calls.
Kelsay also received a special award for his service behind the scenes, along with the duo of Kay and Randy Hardee.
Last year’s “Rookie of the Year,” Dillon Herbert, was named the department’s “Firefighter of the Year,” as he led the department in medical call responses (150) and was the runner-up in fire calls, with 168 responses.
A full-time student also enrolled in EMT school, Herbert joined the department in April, 2007.
Kelsay joined the department Dec. 12, 1996, and remains the department’s certification coordinator.
This year’s “Rookie of the Year” was Chris Perez, while a special service award went to Don Mecklin and Michael Juica.
Stephanie West was the runner-up in medical responses, with 144, while Juica was the department’s top fire responder, answering 181 calls.
During 2008, the 46-member department responded to 649 calls, about half of those medical calls, which includes vehicle accidents, Harley reported.
There were a couple of major fires that boosted the department’s dollar loss, but the department was able to save many more homes and prevent losses through the year, he added.
“Major fires are a challenge,” he said. “Knowing that you can support your water supplies is a big help.”
The department’s area-wide ISO (fire insurance) rating is 4. “To me, that’s outstanding for a rural community like ours,” Harley said.
Operating nine apparatus out of two stations, the department’s average response time last year was 7.43 minutes.
So far, 2009 is starting out as another busy year, with 112 calls through Saturday, he added.
During the banquet, the firefighters’ pagers went off with a structure fire alarm, and six or eight members roared out in two pieces of equipment.
A few minutes later, the pagers went off again, telling department members to “10-22” (disregard) the alarm, and the members who left were able to rejoin the others for a department gathering at the dais.
In a running gag, Harley often referred to his “program” – several scribbled notes on the back of a large envelope – during the nearly three-hour banquet.
During the awards portion, Harley handed out a number of certificates of appreciation to individuals, including Dennis Harris and Jimmy and Irma Reynolds, along with the Pinnacle Women’s Club and Poole Gas Company in Malakoff.
Also, Harley recognized representatives from the Eustace, Log Cabin, Gun Barrel City and Enchanted Oaks fire departments, which have mutual aid agreements with the Payne Springs volunteers.
Athens Fire Chief John McQueary, a former battalion commander with the Arlington Fire Department, spoke briefly to the gathering about the absolute need for as much training as possible.
A Vietnam veteran, McQueary came to Athens after retiring from Arlington with 35 years of service.
At Arlington, McQueary commanded five stations in a section of the city that included Six Flags and Hurricane Harbor, as well as the Texas Rangers stadium and the spot now housing the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, still under construction.
“I hadn’t had much experience with volunteers until I got down here,” McQueary said. “I don’t see how you do what you do.”
McQueary noted he was always a paid employee, and admitted the paycheck provided motivation at times.
“You do it out of the passion of your heart,” he said.
Every year, more than 100 firefighters die in the line of duty, and more than 45,000 are injured. Training is the way to lower those figures, McQueary said.
“What we have to recognize is what the dangers are, and then train on them,” he said. “Training allows you to find out what your weaknesses are, because you have to work as a team.”
Being a firefighter isn’t a job – it’s a calling that requires the utmost dedication, McQueary said.
“I applaud you,” he added. “You are doing an honorable thing.”

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Most of the 44-member Payne Springs Fire Rescue department gather for a photo
at the department’s annual awards banquet Saturday at the Lighthouse Baptist Church.

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Payne Springs Fire Chief Randy Harley (at right) presents a plaque to the family
of veteran volunteer firefighter and department board member Roger Yardley during
the Payne Springs Fire Rescue’s annual awards banquet Saturday.

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Veteran training officer Sean Kelsay (center), flanked by Kellie and Ashley
Kelsay, holds a special service award presented for his help behind the scenes.

Prepare now for severe weather
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–The Henderson County Commissioners made two proclamations recently marking Feb. 22-28 as Severe Weather Awareness Week and March 2 as the 173rd anniversary of Texas Independence Day.
Storm Spotters workshops are scheduled across Texas from now until April.
Henderson County is hosting such a class Tuesday, March 24, at the Athens Senior Citizens Center on State Highway 31.
(A detailed announcement will continue in The Monitor’s News in Brief.)
Emergency Management Coordinator Joy Kimbrough told commissioners a number of newspaper ads would alert the public.
Also, a number of informative brochures can be viewed on the county website ( ) under county offices-Emergency Management.
Severe weather most often occurs in spring and early summer, with heavy thunderstorms and tornadoes peaking between March and May.
Avoiding dangers from lightening, flash flooding, high winds and tornadoes can save lives, she said.
Since lightning is estimated to strike the earth about 20 million times a year, moving from outdoors to indoors is the best way to avoid being struck.
Do not take shelter in small sheds or under isolated trees, or in convertible automobiles. Stay away from tall objects and power lines, experts advise.
If moving indoors is not an option, find a low spot. If you feel your skin tingle or hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet.
Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees, to make yourself as small a target as possible, also minimize your contact with the ground. Do not lie down, they warn.
Statistics report 80 fatalities a year from lightening strikes and about 300 injuries.
However, flash floods are the No. 1 cause of deaths associated with thunderstorms, about 140 a year.
Most flash flood deaths occur at night by people trapped in their cars. Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock a person off their feet; 12 inches can float most vehicles. Avoid entering fast-moving water. Move to higher ground.
If a siren signals a tornado, seek underground shelter immediately, or move to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and under a sturdy piece of furniture to protect yourself from falling debris.
Stay away from windows. Get out of automobiles. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from swirling winds in excess of 250 mph. Leave mobile homes and seek shelter in a sturdy nearby building or storm shelter.
If caught outside, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.
In the aftermath of a disaster, an emergency supply kit may prove invaluable, Kimbrough said.
Essential supplies include one gallon of water per person per day for three days, food that won’t spoil, a change of clothing and footwear, blankets and a first aid kit, including prescription medicines.
Also, emergency tools, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight and plenty of extra batteries, an extra set of car keys, a credit card or cash and items for specific needs of infants, elderly, disabled or pets.
Charles Luna, president Piney Woods Chapter of The Sons of the Republic of Texas, reminded commissioners that on March 2, 173 years ago, a group of men met on a cold March day in an unfinished building to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence.
This came hard on the heels of the massacres at Goliad and the Alamo, when all the Anglo settlers abandoned their homesteads and fled toward Arkansas to avoid the Mexican forces.

Eustace man flees sheriff’s deputies
Monitor Staff Reports
EUSTACE–Henderson County authorities are seeking a 54-year-old rural Eustace man on drug charges, after the man fled from officers seeking to execute an arrest warrant.
As of Tuesday afternoon, officers were still seeking Robert Wesley Preston, who fled from his home on County Road 2803 around 5 p.m. Friday.
Sheriff’s deputies Billy Jack Valentine and Sgt. Thomas Goodell went to Preston’s home armed with a felony arrest warrant on charges of manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance, stemming from an August, 2008, police raid at the residence.
When Valentine and Goodell arrived at the residence, Preston and another male subject ran into the woods, Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt reported in a prepared news release.
The deputies found a quantity of white rock crystals believed to be methamphetamine in plain view, and confiscated the suspected drugs, Nutt said.
A field test indicated the crystals to be methamphetamine, and Valentine secured a second felony arrest warrant against Preston for manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance, more than four grams and less than 200 grams, Nutt reported.


Come Adopt Us At
The Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake

My name is Nelson. I am a beautiful male Dachshund. I was brought to the shelter by animal control, so I have no history. So far, I seem pretty laid back and gentle. I am a wonderful boy looking for my new forever home.

My name is Oreo. I am a beautiful female black Lab. I was brought to the shelter by animal control, so I have no history. I seem to get along with other dogs. I need help with leash training. I have been started on my shots and need to be fixed. I am a beautiful girl looking for my new home.

We are a whole litter of Shepherd mix babies. We were brought to the shelter by animal control, so we have no history. We have been started on our first set of shots. We are good kids looking for our new forever homes.

I am a beautiful Border Collie, who is four months old, or so. I was brought to the shelter by animal control, so I have no history. I have not been at the shelter long, so not much is known about me. I am a beautiful kid looking for a new home.

Pictured are just a few animals at the Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake in Seven Points in dire need of a good home. Please call or stop by the Humane Society today and rescue one of these forgotten animals. The Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake is located on 10220 County Road 2403 in
Seven Points. For more information, please call (903) 432-3422 after 11 a.m.
We are closed on Wednesday and Sunday.

For further information visit our website at


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