Tuesday, July 14, 2015

And who is my neighbor?

Many people are familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus gave the commandment to "love thy neighbor as thyself." A doubter scoffed and asked, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus answered by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, who acted as a true neighbor by stopping to help a stranger in need who had crossed his path. 

Yesterday a fire started at an oil distributor located in Sikeston. Fueled by large amounts of stored propane and other combustibles, it turned out to be one of the largest fires Sikeston has experienced in many years. When an incident like this occurs, it's an "all hands on deck" situation for our Department of Public Safety (DPS), which includes police, firefighters, and 911 dispatchers. Firefighters and trucks were immediately dispatched to the scene. Public safety officers quickly closed down nearby roads and evacuated nearby businesses as it became apparent that the fire would be extremely large and dangerous. Flames rose high into the air as propane tanks exploded and thick black smoke rolled off the fire. 

Calls went out to our "neighbors" in nearby communities and at several first response agencies. The City of Cape Girardeau sent firefighters and equipment to help fight the fire and staff a fire station in Sikeston in case other fire calls came in. The City of Morehouse sent firefighters and equipment to staff another fire station. The Missouri Highway Patrol closed Highway 60 in both directions to keep drivers away from the explosive materials. The Federal Aviation Administration declared a temporary flight restriction zone to keep small aircraft from coming close to a scene that was more dangerous than they might have known. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources sent crews and equipment to help contain the spread of spilled fuel. The Red Cross sent a canteen truck to help keep first responders hydrated in the 90+ degree weather. The New Madrid County Ambulance District, Stoddard County Ambulance District, and South Scott County Ambulance District all sent ambulances to help treat any wounded, of which thankfully there were few. The New Madrid County Sheriff's Office sent officers to help with traffic control. The State Fire Marshal's Office sent a crew to help with the cause and origin investigation. Sikeston BMU monitored water supplies and pressure. BMU and Ameren turned off power supplies to allow firefighters to safely fight the fire. Liberty Utilities turned off gas supplies and checked damaged meters as the fire diminished.

Multiple private businesses provided or offered meeting space, food, water, ice, and more, including Lowe's, Holiday Inn, Pizza Inn, Cott Beverage, and probably others of which I am not aware. UPS allowed Sikeston DPS to stage personnel, equipment and vehicles from their property across the street from the fire scene, and MikeRentals brought cooling fans over. After the fire was contained Sikeston DPS stayed on scene throughout the night to fight flare ups and hot spots. Sikeston Public Works employees were called in with heavy equipment to move dirt and contain spilled fuel before it entered storm drains and ditches.

All of these agencies and people acted as true neighbors to the Sikeston community throughout this incident. My sincere thanks go out to them, and to the many Sikeston DPS employees who put their lives on the line to protect our community.