Emergency responders receive well-justified support from community

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The new year of 2018 arrived with tragedy in Clay County as three homes were destroyed within less than 24 hours; with one fatality.

The first reported fire on State Road 340 took the life of a person and is still under investigation, with no information provided publicly by officials.

The other two fires took place in the small community of Carbon, one the evening of New Year’s Day, the other the next morning.

As the community mourns the tragic loss it has risen en masse to help the families who have lost so much.

Social media is abuzz of activity with local residents setting up collection sites for the families to receive donations to restart their lives. Others offer prayers and public support for the grieving family of the unidentified victim.

Also amid this tragedy there has been a huge outpouring of support for our local emergency responders — men and women — who battled arctic temperatures to do their job throughout the first week of 2018.

A frozen nightmare of temperatures at -17 degrees during the first Carbon fire had firefighters struggling with frozen turnout gear, water valves and water turning into ice within minutes.

(Ever seen a structure fire with icicles forming on the house while firefighters are using the fire hoses? Firefighters working the fire in Carbon from 10 departments did on Jan. 1, 2018.)

County and state transportation crews worked to put salt on the roads, which were freezing from thousands of gallons of water that made it difficult to walk around the locations. Firehoses left laying on the ground for a matter of minutes would freeze to the ground.

Water was a problem for firefighters, who described what it feels like to be frozen inside the life-saving turnout gear they wear (which normally weighs 45-70 pounds):

“It was like trying to put out a fire wearing a full body cast.”

“My feet didn’t get cold, but my neck ached from so much ice on my head.”

“I couldn’t change my gloves fast enough to keep them from freezing.”

“I stayed warm, but couldn’t move right trapped inside it.”

“It was exhausting.”

The chaos of the events involved almost every firefighter in Clay County, and brought countless more from fire departments in Vigo, Parke and Putnam counties. While the first responders — firemen, law

enforcement, 911 dispatchers, ambulance personnel and so many more — battled the elements; their family members, friends and neighbors rushed to help in any way they could.

Coffee and hot chocolate as well as all kinds of food started showing up as the clock ticked away the hours. Snacks, dinner, breakfast whatever was needed started showing up at the three incident command centers. Anything to help first responders, who were outside in temperatures cold enough

to disable the water pumps on fire engines, freezing them solid during transport.

Vehicles were left running with heaters on high to create places to get warm, for hours so the fight could go on. And each time a fire rekindled, the support was there, again and again, from the community.

On Jan 7th, members of Clay County’s various fire departments had responded to at least eight call outs (including rekindles of previous fire scenes) throughout the county.

Amidst these tragedies Clay County residents rallied to support their hometown heroes, and each other. That is the true measure of living in a small town, where everybody knows your name and you’re part of one big family.