LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) – A situation in Lowndes County, where a man allegedly fired shots into the ground near a volunteer fireman, has some departments thinking about security.
With volunteers having no means or training to defend themselves in those situations, what is their move?
In our area, many departments coordinate with local law enforcement to help get a scene under control.
If officers or deputies are elsewhere, the only defense firemen have is their common sense, judging situations to see if it’s safe to go in alone or wait for others.
As some can imagine, volunteer firefighters are an important asset to communities.
“They’re responding in their own vehicles, on their own time, a lot of times leaving their paying jobs to go out and help the community,” said Winston County Sheriff, Jason Pugh.
Something they aren’t trained in is responding to what many think can’t happen to a firefighter, gunfire.
“To my knowledge, there is no training in self-defense for firefighters,” said Pugh, “and it’s sad that it’s possibly the world we’re heading into.”
Normally that training isn’t needed.
In small communities, law enforcement is there to help get the scene under control.
“We want to be there for our firefighters in case something like this happens,” added Pugh. “You know, we have had firefighters assaulted on calls in the county before, you know, physically assaulted by someone for whatever reason.”
Winston County Fire Coordinator, Jody Garrard says his advice is for fire personnel to use their heads.
“I tell our firemen a lot of times: Common sense goes a long way with anything,” said Garrard. “Something doesn’t look right? Something doesn’t feel right? Back back up down the street, wait for the firetruck to get there, call law enforcement. You know, don’t get yourself in a bind.”
In Winston County’s case, several of the county’s volunteers are also part-time officers and deputies.
“We have so many different law enforcement that is on our fire departments,” said Garrard.
“We have several that kind of wear both hats,” added Pugh.
If an already dangerous situation becomes more dangerous for volunteers, departments might need to make some upgrades in gear.
“Companies contact me almost every day, wanting to sell our fire departments body armor, and it may be something we have to think about,” said Garrard.
“There are a lot of avenues that this may go down, and I can see the body armor becoming something that’s issued to a firefighter,” said Pugh.
Departments like Jackson already have protective vests for their firefighters.
Sheriff Pugh could be right, It may not be much longer until the average fire personnel is equipped to handle any situation at the scene.