It’s that time of year again – the urge to get a jump-start on spring cleaning.

Including burning off the fields, finally being able to take care of that pile of limbs in the yard or that dozer pile that has been waiting for some time. And don’t forget about that collection of trash that has been waiting for disposal.

Please remember not to be too anxious to overlook safety.

Emergency line rings into dispatch:

Dispatcher: “9-1-1, where is your emergency?”

Caller: “My land is on fire; we need the fire department now!”

Dispatcher: “What is the address?”

Caller: “I don’t have one, we just bought the old Smith place. It is moving fast, hurry!”

Dispatcher: “What is your phone number and your name?”

Caller: “John, 417-123-1234.”

Dispatcher: “We need to determine your location before sending the fire department.”

John: “Tell them to follow the smoke!”

Dispatcher: “Lets start with what road you are on.”

The dispatcher talked with the John to determine the location of the fire. It took some doing but the general area was determined. John and his family had moved recently to the area, they had bought this land with an older home and few barns on the location. While working on remodeling and cleaning the land, they have been staying at a different site. He had not obtained an address for the farmland. Since no one had lived there since the late 80s there was no current address assigned.  

Dispatcher: “John, is anyone injured?”

John: “No, we are all OK. I tried to put it out, but the wind came and the fire almost overcame me.”

Dispatcher: “My partner has dispatched the fire department and they will be on the way. I want you all to stay a safe distance away. Are there any structures in danger?”

John: “The old chicken house may be in the pathway, but we were going to tear it down anyway.”

Dispatcher: “How much area is on fire?

John: “About four acres as of now.”

Dispatcher: “Are there any hazards? Any propane or other hazardous materials?”

John: “There is an old propane tank, but I don’t know if it has anything in it or if is still hooked up.”

All this information was relayed to the fire department as they responded.

John: “We are only 10 minutes from town. Where is the fire department? Why aren’t they here yet?”

Dispatcher: “They are on the way; keep in mind they are all volunteers and had to come form other places before responding with the fire trucks.”

John: “What?”

The fire department did arrive, and with the help of a neighboring department the fire was extinguished. The quick actions of the fire department made sure that the structures were a priority in saving, even the chicken house. After all was over, the fire chief talked with John and advised him that he should have reached out to the 9-1-1 business office to obtain an address. It was also explained to him that in the future if he was going to do a controlled burn to let 9-1-1 dispatch know. This did start out as a controlled burn, but then quickly became an emergency. If he had called in the controlled burn at the beginning, the location would have been determined and saved time when dispatching the fire department.

If you are new to the area like John and his family, you may also be asking about the fire departments being volunteers.

A few reminders:

•Even your farmland, or any vacant land can have an address and will help if emergency response of any kind is needed. If you need an address assigned, reach out to the Texas County 9-1-1 business office at 417-967-5309.

If you are going to have any controlled burns, please call dispatch at 417-967-5996. Be prepared to provide your name, location, phone number, and what you will be burning. Dispatch will make note of the information and notify the fire department for your area of a control burn. By knowing this information dispatch will save resources by not having to send out the fire departments for every possible fire. For any report of fire that has not been reported as a controlled burn, a fire department must be dispatched to the call. However, if you have any issues with your controlled burn, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1 to ask for the fire department to respond.

Yes, these fire departments we call upon for help are indeed dedicated volunteers. They are our neighbors, our family and friends. They volunteer countless hours of their time for training to be ready for your call for assistance. They are not always standing by at the fire station awaiting notification, but at their place of employment, home or family events. Once they are alerted of an emergency, they leave from where they are to respond to the call. They first must report to the station where the fire trucks are, then drive to the emergency. This explains more of why – in our part of the world at least – it is not like you see on television.   

I encourage each of you to reach out to your local fire departments if you are interested in volunteering, whether for fighting fires, medical response or many of the endless opportunities behind the scenes.

Thanks to all fire departments throughout!

The Texas County Emergency Services office in Houston is funded by a 3/8-cent countywide sales tax approved by voters in 2013. Assistant director Terra Culley can be reached by phone at 417-967-5309 or by email at

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