Assistant Fire Chief Cassidy Martin, along with firefighters Jim Smith and Philip Wilkerson, were guests at the meeting of the Winnfield Rotary Club on Wednesday, October 14, 2020. Rotarian of the week, Bryan Jordan, introduced Assistant Chief Martin as the speaker for the gathering. Martin spoke about the increase in duties for our local firefighters and EMTs in recent months as a result of Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Delta and the coronavirus pandemic.
Chief Martin said that, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Laura, the major difference in the work of the fire department was that the only ways they could receive emergency calls were through reports from the Winnfield Police Department and from individuals driving to the fire station to report that help was needed until communication was restored to the area by utility and communications workers. There were more fires after Laura, but the biggest increase in calls to the fire department was in emergency medical calls related to carbon monoxide poisoning due to people operating gasoline powered generators in their homes. Martin said that operating generators in houses resulted in more deaths than anything else related to Hurricane Laura, and he could not stress strongly enough that a generator should NEVER be operated in an enclosed space. He also said that the fire calls increased significantly when electricity service was restored to the area.
Soon after conditions returned to near normal in the Winnfield area, the Louisiana Fire Marshall called on the Winnfield department to assist in other areas in the state which were still without electricity and needed more firefighters and EMTs than they had available as a result of post-Laura conditions. The department sent a team led by Chief Martin to assist in Iowa. Louisiana, about 15 miles east of Lake Charles, which did not have electricity restored until September 24 and has only an all-volunteer fire department. Another team led by Chief Montgomery was sent to Moss Bluff, Louisiana, about 8 miles north of Lake Charles. The duties in those locations were the same as the firefighting and emergency medical duties here after the hurricane,–fighting fires, rescues, and medical calls–simply a greater number of such emergencies than usual. Only one team was away at a time, and other fire departments sent teams to those locations and others to help with the higher volume of calls in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura.
After Hurricane Delta came through the area, the fire department responded to a call which required them to rescue an entire family from their home.
Martin mentioned that, in light of the experiences after Laura, Winnfield’s fire department has increased the number of tanks holding supplemental oxygen available at the fire station for people requiring supplemental oxygen, and members of the community may come to the department and borrow an oxygen cannister if needed.
Bryan Jordan expressed the gratitude of the entire community to the firefighters and EMTs who respond to emergency calls around the clock for all they do to help the people in our community, and the meeting was adjourned by President Jodi Taylor with the club motto “Service above self!”