Area crew gets ovation for help after ice storm

Friday, February 16, 2007

Cape Girardeau firefighters were honored last month for their efforts helping with rescue and cleanup efforts during and after a January ice storm in southwest Missouri.

During a basketball game between Logan-Rogersville and Poplar Bluff at Logan-Rogersville High School Jan. 19, the firefighters were recognized with a standing ovation by the crowd.

"It was nice they acknowledged us," said Cape Girardeau Fire Department Capt. Steve Niswonger. "It embarrassed us a little bit, but we were more than happy to be there."

The crew's ticket fees were refunded by the general manager and the crew was offered free concessions, he said.

"I announced they were at the game," said Rod Gorman, Rogersville athletic director. "We wanted to show our appreciation and people were very appreciative. They were away from their families and doing a much needed service to our families."

The southwest region had been hard-hit during the ice storm that blanketed about a 100-mile diameter with more than 2 inches of ice, said fire chief Rich Stirts of the Logan-Rogersville Fire Protection District. The storm downed power lines, leaving thousands without power and shutting off water for those dependent on wells, he said.

"It was devastating," he said.

Cape Girardeau's crew joined more than 120 other firefighters throughout the state who responded to a statewide mutual aid call Jan. 13.

Cape Girardeau was the fourth wave to arrive after the ice storm, Stirts said.

Niswonger, along with firefighter/paramedic Derrick Carlton, firefighter/EMT Chris Denable and Jackson firefighter/EMT Terry Drum left for Rogersville Jan. 17, arriving at midnight.

They caravanned with crews from Sikeston, Kennett and Bloomfield. Each contributed a fire engine to the cause, spending three days assisting the Logan-Rogersville Fire Protection District where needed.

"From the minute we walked in we pretty much ran steady on different types of calls," Niswonger said.

The very next day they battled a blaze at a Rogersville convenience store with departments from Jefferson City, Ozark, Nixa, Southern Webster County and Bloomfield.

Housed at the base camp at the Logan-Rogersville Fire Protection District Fire Station No. 1, the crew assisted in providing water to Webster County residents who were without well water due to power outages. Residents pulled up in cars with buckets and containers firefighters filled for them, Niswonger said.

"We had about eight hours of sleep the whole time we were there," Niswonger said.

Skirt's wife, Earlene, and Genelle Reaves, Logan-Rogersville Fire Protection District secretary, fed firefighters three meals a day.

Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson said the recognition was a wonderful and heartwarming experience for the firefighters and everyone in Cape Girardeau.

"We would only hope that if we were in that situation other fire districts would respond," he said. "The brotherhood between fire departments is a powerful bond."


335-6611, extension 127

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