North Bienville Fire Department Chief explains circumstances of Mt. Lebanon fire

Approximate location of trailer fire last week in Mt. Lebanon

By Paige Nash

North Bienville Fire Department (NBFD) Chief Gary Hathorn has responded to the issues surrounding a trailer fire that occurred last week in Mt. Lebanon at the intersection of Highway 154 and 793.

A dually truck that was carrying 17 large bales of hay caught fire. The driver pulled over on the side of the road and called 911.

The trailer was eventually disconnected from the truck and moved to a property owned by Judy Merritt Carter and sister Jane Merritt Robinson.

They were not happy with the trailer being relocated onto their property without their permission and feared the fire would travel to a barn that they have spent thousands of dollars repairing and updating.

According to Carter, when she questioned the firefighters from NBFD why they moved the trailer there and not across the street onto an asphalted parking lot, they responded that they were just following orders given to them by Hathorn.

But according to Hathorn proper procedures were followed and moving it to the ashpalted parking lot across the street would have put Pleasant Hill CME Church at risk.

When there is an active fire, departments have the power of eminent domain.

“We have the authority to do whatever it is to prevent further damage or if there is life involved, of course,” said Hathorn. “All of this has to be done in a split second thinking. We do not have time to take a consensus among ourselves.”

The NBFD Chief’s report states a Point of Attack (POA) was assessed upon arriving on the scene. A POA includes assessing certain factors in danger including life, property and exposure. The report stated, “POA was no life at risk and only exposures were the truck, forest fire danger, church and close properties.”

Reportedly, the “Red Barn” was not one of the close properties at risk.

“The Red Barn never came into play. It was never close enough. The perimeter was contained safely or we wouldn’t have started our periodic watch on it. Sometimes we have to let it continue to burn,” said Hathron.

He explained that by moving the burning bales of hay to the ground eliminated oxygen traveling under the trailer and regenerating flames or embers.

Hathorn further explained the decision to move the trailer on the Merritt’s property.

He said, “We had to move it to get it out from under the power lines. If those power lines would have dropped without a doubt it would have caused a forest fire. They are hot and when they fall, they are going to spark and would have been uncontrollable.”

He explained that if that were to have occurred, the fire department would have to wait on the power to be cut off before they could attempt to extinguish the fire and with the current conditions it would have spread very quickly.

Assistant Chief Antoine Hampton decided to move the trailer to the property to eliminate that danger.

According to the chief another factor that played into where the trailer was positioned was to avoid overhanging trees that could have also potentially caught on fire.

The department follows a 3 C’s rule – contain, confine and control.

“When we left it, it was contained, confined and under control,” said Hathorn.

The NBFD did later return to add extra water to the smoldering remains of the trailer and hay bales.

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