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Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - February 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk Count
y Publishing Company

LVFD discusses protection strategies as burn ban continues
Polk County Enterprise - February 2009
LIVINGSTON – Polk County continues under a burn ban as high winds and storm debris left over from Hurricane Ike create tinderbox conditions. Livingston Fire Chief Corky Cochran advises all residents to observe the ban and not take any chances just because we’ve had a little rain in the last couple of days. Despite the recent rainfall Polk County is still 5 inches behind on rainfall totals for the last 90 days. For those who do find themselves with an out-of-control brush fire or a structural fire, the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department and the rest of the county’s volunteer departments are well-prepared to deal with any crisis. According to Livingston Fire Station Attendant Josh Mohler, all firefighters in the area are cross-trained to deal with incident command, extrication, wildfire fighting and more. Because of this extensive training, the first men on the scene can assess the situation and call for the appropriate equipment and backups instead of having to rely on just one or two specialists. “All of our men work together and can handle any situation,” said Mohler. “They’ve worked together long enough that they know what a particular call is going to need.” In addition to the Livingston crew and its three stations, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, Indian Springs, South Polk County, Scenic Loop, City of Onalaska, Holiday Lake Estates and City of Corrigan all have volunteer-based fire crews who frequently work alongside one another, effectively blanketing the county with fire and rescue services. During a recent call to a house fire on Myrow Road off Hwy. 146, Scenic Loop and Onalaska crews positioned themselves in Livingston to answer any calls that may have come in and provide a quick response if any other assistance was needed on Myrow Road. Within the city limits of Livingston there are about 320 fire hydrants. In the unincorporated areas of the county there are a few hydrants located in Leggett and Seven Oaks. Providence Water Supply has been working with the department to increase the number of hydrants along F.M. 1988, Providence Road and at the Escapees RV Club. Beyond hydrants, the department has several gas powered floating pumps that can be placed in a stock pond, lake or swimming pool to provide the pumper trucks with water. Depending on the size of the fire, Mohler said they can place a pumper truck at the lake and lay hose from there to the fire or shuttle water from the lake to the pumper, using the two 3,000 gallon tankers and the 1,000 gallon pumper owned by LVFD. The pumper is about a year old and uses a Compressed Air Foam (CAF) system to effectively double the volume of water available for use. “Engine 21 has been a tremendous asset to the department,” Mohler said. The CAF system also reduces heat damage by cooling the air very quickly while using less water. Between the two 3,000-gallon tankers and the 1,000-gallon CAF pumper, Livingston effectively rolls up at the scene of a fire with 14,000 gallons of water. This is enough to extinguish the majority of fire calls the department receives, but a fully involved structural fire with a collapsed roof or multiple rooms on fire could easily take 30,000 gallons or more and require several trips to refill. Because of the CAF system’s ability to spray foam, if a terrible wildfire situation happened in Polk County similar to the one Australia other structures in the line of fire, could be protected by using the pumper for “structural triage,” Mohler said. Fire crews prepared to implement this tactic on Feb. 1 when an escaped trash fire threatened several homes in a wooded area near Leggett. Trucks and firefighters from Livingston, Onalaska and Scenic Loop spent most of the afternoon on defense as the fire spread through the woods. The crews split up to protect the structures while a crew from the Texas Forest Service’s Tyler County office flowed a line around the fire. Polk County crews had already been called out to assist with a Montgomery County wildfire. Under this strategy, houses and other buildings can be coated in foam as flames approach, creating a water blanket over the house and potentially allowing the fire to pass right around it — leaving the structure unharmed. With this system in place, crews can pretreat homes and then return to the front lines of the fire, Mohler said. Engine 21 was purchased with a $110,000 grant from the Texas Forest Service, but the bulk of the department’s rolling stock has been purchased over the years by private contributions during the department’s annual fundraising drive, Cochran said. Cochran said the bulk of the operational funding for the department comes from the City of Livingston. The city pays for fuel, motor oil, maintenance and repairs, supplies, insurance, fire school training, hoses, air tanks as well as salaries for the city fire marshal, Mohler and dispatchers. A reimbursement stipend of $6 per call is paid to the firefighters for mileage and wear and tear on their personal vehicles. The department never actually sees the money, it’s all handled by the city. An insurance policy provided by the city is a blanket policy that covers all the departments except the City of Onalaska and the City of Corrigan. Cochran and Mohler both point out the importance of private contributions from city and county residents. In the last 30 years 10 pieces of equipment – pumpers, brush trucks, tankers, etc. – were purchased with private donations. The city has purchased three vehicles during that same time span. “That point is not to slight the support we receive from the city,” said Cochran, “but to show our appreciation to the public that has supported us all these years.”



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