Thursday, June 22, 2006

 
 

Fire scorches Prairieville woods
Mabank VFD to stand down for safety review
Special to The Monitor
PRAIRIEVILLE–Mabank and Kemp firefighters, along with units from the Texas Forestry Service and a bulldozer from Kaufman County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Deller, battled a fast-moving and difficult-to-reach forest fire for nearly five hours Friday.
A lightening strike may have started the fire, which scorched between 60 and 70 acres of heavily timbered bottom land just northwest of the Prairieville Store, about 10 miles north of Mabank.
The fire was reported at 4:32 p.m., and firefighters cleared from the scene at 9:40 p.m., Mabank Fire Marshal John Holcomb reported.
Firefighters were hampered by the heavy woods, which made the fire impossible to reach with fire engines or grass trucks.
Deller provided a bulldozer, which helped cut a firebreak around the western edge of the fire, and the Texas Forest Service provided two bulldozers and a four-man engine crew, as well as a spotter aircraft.
The bulldozers expanded and completed the firebreak around the area, Holcomb said.
The Mabank VFD responded with 16 firefighters and five pieces of equipment, while another 10 Kemp firefighters and two pieces of equipment joined them.
Three injuries were reported when a Forest Service crew disturbed a hornet’s nest, Holcomb reported.
“One female and one guy were stung numerous times,” he said. Another Forestry Service crewmember suffered a single sting.
The Mabank VFD was scheduled “to stand down” Wednesday in observance of the annual International Fire Fighter Safety Stand Down.
Starting Wednesday, MVFD members will suspend all non-emergency activity to focus on firefighter safety.
The department will respond to all emergency calls as normal, but between calls, firefighters, officers and chiefs will take the time to conduct safety training and drills; review safety-related standard operating procedures; discuss accident reports and have an open conversation about firefighter safety in the department.
The focus of the Stand Down is on emergency vehicle safety – in particular, on seatbelt use and safe driving through intersections.
“The Mabank Fire Department is committed to serving the residents of City of Mabank, and the residents of Kaufman, Van Zandt and Henderson counties. Keeping our firefighters safe and healthy helps us respond effectively and keep our community protected,” Fire Chief Ricky Myrick said.
“While firefighter safety is always a priority, the Stand Down is an opportunity to dedicate a significant amount of time to the safety of our personnel,” he added.
“The Stand Down also serves to remind citizens of the Tri-County area to do their part in keeping our community’s firefighters safe. Remember to pull to the right when you see fire trucks or ambulances responding, and use caution when driving by emergency scenes where firefighters or paramedics are helping accident victims,” Myrick said.
Last year, 106 firefighters died in the line of duty in the United States; 26 of these deaths occurred in emergency vehicle-related accidents.
Thousands more were injured while on duty. The purpose of the stand down is to call international attention to these unacceptable numbers of line-of-duty deaths and injuries and devote an entire day to the critical issue of fire fighter safety.
The Stand Down is sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the IAFC’s Volunteer and Combination Officers’ Section in partnership with nearly 20 national fire service organizations.
For more information, visit www.iafc.org/standdown, or call the IAFC at (703) 273-0911.

 

No burn ban, yet
By Diane Murray
Monitor Correspondent

ATHENS–No burn ban this week for Henderson County. Some cities have gone ahead and instituted their own bans in view of the current drought conditions.
The clearing of brush for the widening of US Highway 175 and the weekend’s rain heavily influenced the decision at Henderson County Commissioners meeting Monday.
“We didn’t get as much (rain) as we needed, and we are still high on the KBDI (the Keetch Byram Drought Index). But we have had some relief, and I say we wait until next week.” County Judge David Holstein said.
The present listing of 507 on the KBD Index is creeping closer to 591, the maximum that can be reached before a burn ban has to go into effect, Holstein remarked.
The two-week forecast is dry and an index reading of 600 is expected, he said.
In a related move, it was a win-win situation for the Athens Fire Department when Henderson County turned over to the department $12,477 worth of hazardous material containment equipment, as a permanent loan.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the county received a $262,253 grant as part of Homeland Security Act for to upgrade its emergency management equipment.
The equipment was purchased from part of the grant.
“We decided to give it to Athens because it will be best used by them, and because they are the only ones who have a hazmat (hazardous materials) team,” Holstein said.
The Athens City Council formally accept the equipment in a meeting last week.
The items include two Dupont Personal Protection hazmat suits, 35 pairs of assorted rubber chemical-resistant industrial gloves, a plug and patch kit, six pairs of Onguard Industries steel-toed knee boots in various sizes, two pairs of Tingley Rubber Co. chemical-resistant rubber boots, two Scott Health & Safety carbon cylinders with cases, and three 60-minute carbon replacement cylinders.
Credit Card Payments Commissioners approved an offer by Certified Payments to accept credit card payments for just about any business transaction the public needs to conduct with the county.
That includes court costs, fines, fees, motor vehicle registration, traffic tickets and more, all with the ease of a credit card.
The service is free to the county, charging those who use this payment method a 4 percent convenience fee.
The approval was the result of a workshop the commissioners held Friday to review the system and other topics.
It has been shown that counties using the easy pay method realize higher collection percentages, adding to the county’s cash flow, Holstein noted.
Certified Payments is currently used by 22 Texas counties, including Smith County,, and 12 states, company representative Forrest Collett said Friday.
A plus for the program is its integrated reporting services. By a phone call or Internet hookup, the concerned government agency can ascertain whether a fee has been paid by credit card within one minute of payment.
If in use by the sheriff’s department, depending on the charge, a person may be given the choice to use their credit card to pay outstanding judgments or go to jail, for example, Collett said.
However, it will be up to the individual county department heads to opt for the service for their own department.
“I think most of them will want this,” Holstein said.
The county tax-assessor’s/collector’s office currently uses another credit card service.
Certified Payments has no stipulations prohibiting the use of other card services.
 

Cocaine ring cracked
Special to the Monitor
KAUFMAN–The Narcotics Division of the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department had a good week.
Following a two-week undercover investigation that ended June 16, the unit was able to ascertain that six individuals were involved in the control of crack cocaine deals.
The department confiscated more than 40 grams of crack cocaine and seized one vehicle.
Six people were involved in the dealing of crack cocaine on East 1st North Street in Kaufman, as well as throughout the city of Kaufman.
Five were arrested and charged with engaging in organized crime. A sixth individual is still at large.
Those arrested include Jimmy R. Love and Anthony Charles Eldridge of Kaufman, Elizabeth Iona Brown, Tevis Mayes and Vera Collins, all of Dallas.