All in a day’s work for AFD
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
The morning of Thursday, October 10, was a quiet one around Atmore’s fire stations. Around noon, all that changed.
Before the day ended, AFD personnel had been involved in fighting a fire that swept across a patch of rural woods, helping out with a local school’s fall festival, assisting with the extrication of a wreck victim trapped in her car, and helping control traffic around a collision between a vehicle and a herd of cows.
Each of the emergency calls came as a result of mutual aid pacts with various other agencies, and each came virtually on the heels of the one preceding it.
The morning quiet was broken around 11:49 a.m., when city firefighters were called to rural Wawbeek, where a woodland fire was starting to rage out of control and becoming more than the community’s volunteer fire department could handle.
AFD units and firemen rushed to the scene and helped fight the raging fire for more than two hours before Alabama Forestry Commission resources arrived and it was finally brought under control.
“It was a woodland area with difficult entry,” said AFD Chief Ron Peebles. “We attacked it from the south side, and Wawbeek attacked it from the north. We had to eventually call a second engine out to refill the water in the brush units.”
City personnel returned to their stations shortly after 2 p.m. and were able to get a few minutes of rest before heading out to Huxford Elementary School, where they cooked hamburgers, hot dogs and Conecuh sausages for attendees and handing out fire-safety information.
But there was to be little rest for the weary firefighters once that task was completed.
Around 6:30 p.m. they got a call from firefighters in Walnut Hill, requesting assistance with a two-vehicle collision, with entrapment, near the intersection of Escambia County (Fla.) 99 and State Line Road.
One vehicle was still in the Florida roadway, but the other had been knocked into a deep ditch on the Alabama side of the line, trapping an Atmore woman — 24-year-old Kadeejah Jackson — and a passenger — Isaac Johnson, 27, also of Atmore — inside.
“The wreck actually occurred in Florida, or the impact did, but it knocked one of the cars into a big ditch in Alabama,” Peebles recounted. “We worked together with Walnut Hill, and they did a heck of an extrication. The ditch was probably 15 feet deep, and the car was on its side at the bottom.
“It was a pretty rough extrication, and we had to use ladders to go in and out of the ditch. It was a pretty lengthy extrication; we had to cut the top off the car (a 2016 Hyundai Sonata) to get them out.”
Florida Highway Patrol reports show that Jackson was flown by medical evacuation helicopter to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Fla., and Johnson was taken to the same facility by ambulance. The driver of the other car, Hayley Freer, 24, of Pensacola and a 5-year-old child riding in her car, suffered minor injuries and were also taken by ambulance to Sacred Heart.
Cows in the roadway
Local emergency personnel left the isolated rural scene around 7:30 p.m. and had barely gotten back to their station when a request came from Little Rock volunteers for assistance with a collision on Robinsonville Road.
They arrived to find that a minivan had plowed into a herd of cows that were reportedly being led from one pasture to another, killing three of the bovine creatures. AFD was at that site for just over an hour.
“We mostly helped with traffic control on that one,” Peebles said.
By the time things settled down the fire chief said he was more than ready to go home and recover from the afternoon and evening of chaotic activity.
“I told (an AFD captain) that I was going home,” Peebles said. “I told him I was turning off my radio, that I didn’t even want to hear it anymore that day. I guess you could say we had a pretty full day.”