Voice of the people: Kerry Blalock




Concerned with fire department practices


Why does Chief Martin Andrews still have a job after he and the Mayor misled the city on the accreditation trip / vacation to Atlanta? According to the chief we spent $250,000 on accreditation. I believe the actual cost is much higher. What do we get for our money? Based on my findings, not a lot. Chief Andrews stated in his August 4 letter to The Commercial Dispatch that one benefit we don't see is the safety of the firefighter. He gave an example of two firemen losing their way in a 2017 mobile home fire and stated, "Because of the training and procedure put in place due to the accreditation program two other firemen were on the way in to save these men. Had this program not been in place both could have easily perished." Now maybe if our chief spent more time studying The National Fire Protection Association NFPA rules and less time on his Mercedes manual he would have seen in chapter 8 of NFPA1500 that a fire department shall provide personnel for the rescue of members operating at emergency incidents, called "RIT" rapid intervention team. This is also known as OSHA 29 CFR1910.134(g)(4). These have been in force since 2010, and we were not accredited until 2014.


I have been in contact with some firemen about all the houses our fire department has been burning. Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality will allow a fire department to burn down a structure only after proper permitting has been acquired. Some of the rules are as follows: "The burning activity must be conducted for training purposes only and must be part of a written plan or regimen. The activities performed must be examples of fire fighting techniques to improve fire department readiness and preparedness." It also states that burning can't be done to reduce the volume of the structure or debris.



Last May the fire department burned 12 structures for BH Properties owned by Jabari Edwards and Antwann Richardson of J5 fame. Edwards also is the neighbor to Chief Andrews. Chief Andrews stated the fire department has burned properties because it can save the developer significant demolition and removal cost. The way it appears to me, we used city equipment and personnel to save J5 approximately $40-60K of demolition cost. MDEQ has now red-flagged Columbus on future burning after I initiated an investigation of this matter. Also, several people affiliated with the fire department shared with me that a high ranking CF&R employee was ordered to take a fire truck by himself with no crew and set three of these houses on fire. The wind changed direction and he had to call for backup. If that fire had gotten away the city would have been liable for any injury or property damage.


The NFPA has a rule #1403 which states in a live burn there should be more than one engine and more than one source of water. There must be an increased number of firemen on scene, a safety officer, training officer, etc. We are creating a situation that can kill or injure someone, destroy city equipment or individual property and we as a city are liable.


Our firefighters do a hero's bidding. It is a shame that they have to endanger their lives under the order of the Mayor and Fire Chief in order to save Jabari and Antwann money. If you see a fireman please thank them for their service. If you see the Chief, please ask him to pay his still-delinquent taxes as he has still not done so and please ask him to resign. If you see the "Honorable" Mayor thank him for his many roles in ruining what used to be a really nice place to live.


I don't know how many firemen will see this letter because I understand the department canceled their newspaper subscription after the gender reveal parties where fire trucks sprayed pink or blue water out of a $500,000 fire truck was exposed by The Commercial Dispatch.


Kerry Blalock





A letter to the editor is an excellent way to participate in your community. We request the tone of your letters be constructive and respectful and the length be limited to 450 words. We welcome all letters emailed to [email protected] or mailed to The Dispatch, Attn: Letters to the Editor, PO Box 511, Columbus, MS 39703-0511.




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