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Emergency workers urge residents to stay home

If the weather hits as predicted, emergency personnel in the county are hoping residents will stay at home unless it’s an emergency.

 “The main thing is that if it is not an emergency and they don’t have to go out that they stay in,” Wolf Creek Assistant Fire Chief Steve Young said Monday morning. “Also they can expect to have delayed responses to outlying areas during the worst portion of the storm due to overloads in calls and road conditions.”

Wolf Creek has two fire trucks that can be equipped with chains but even chains don’t guarantee safe travel.

“We will be prioritizing calls and non-life threatening calls will be run last,” he said. “All of our residential care facilities will be checked on regularly in the event of power outages.”

Even though the department is strictly made of volunteers, Wolf Creek will have two three-man shifts from 8 a.m. Monday until 8 p.m. Thursday to cover calls. The department, like many in the county, are strictly volunteers.

“… We will have a minimum of six firefighters manning the station 24-7 until late Thursday,” Young said. “We are also being set up as a warming shelter.”

David Tetrault, director of St. Francois County Ambulance District, said when they go into emergency mode, they will not do any out-of-area transfers unless it is life or limb-threatening. He said they will only handle emergency 911 medical calls.

When the bad weather hits, they will automatically put at least two additional ambulance crews on duty.

The ambulances are equipped with chains. There will be sand bags, cat litter and a shovel on every ambulance, as well.

Big River Fire Chief David Pratte said they were as prepared as they can get with what they have.

The trucks were fueled and ready to go. The generators had been tested. He told the volunteer firefighters to make sure they bring extra clothing with them and to make sure their families will be OK.

They will set a few mattresses up in the fire house in case they have time to rest in between calls. He said he has a very good and dedicated crew of volunteers – volunteers who will be spending time away from their families, as well as their jobs. He doesn’t believe lack of manpower will be a problem for his department.

On Monday afternoon, St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock and 911 Director Alan Wells contacted SEMA to arrange to get supplies for the forecasted emergency weather.  Bullock also got in touch with the National Guard in case they would be needed.

Bullock encourages people to stay home if they don’t have to be out. “It may be really tough for emergency personnel to get to you even if they are available to do so,” he said.

Their focus will be on people who can’t help themselves. He said if it is like it normally is in bad weather, they will have hundreds of calls to keep them busy.

“I really want to encourage people to take care of themselves and prepare… “ he said.

He said the older generation is used to fending for themselves by stockpiling necessities and pulling out the extra blankets. If the power goes out, he recommends first contacting a relative or friend who has an alternative heat source such as a wood stove.

Bullock said the county’s Road and Bridge crew has enough salt stockpiled but the problem will be being able to get out on those roads.

From Saturday through Monday, there was plenty of ice melt but at times grocery stores ran out of groceries like eggs, milk, juice and bread.

When Holekamps opened in Bonne Terre Monday morning there were people waiting in the parking lot.

The frenzy wasn’t for buying shovels or ice melt, Many people were worrying about having heat in a power outage.

Debbie Gawf said by Monday afternoon, they were out of kerosene and propane heaters and propane tanks. They were also down to one generator. She said some people were also buying heavy duty extension cords for generators.

Young wants to remind people to be careful using generators. He said people should keep generators down wind from their house and away from their house to prevent carbon monoxide problems.

Teresa Ressel is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 179 or at

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