Firefighter experiences new coverage area in Port Gibson fire

Published 9:57 am Monday, September 21, 2015

Since 2007, Michael Baker has been helping serve his family and friends in Warren County, and last week he was able to extend his efforts into Claiborne County.

Members of the Fisher Ferry Fire Department along with about 16 new firefighters, who at the time were in the middle of a certified firefighter class at Culkin Fire Department, raced to Port Gibson last week as two historic building burned.

The Warren County fire departments received clearance to go to the fire and were assisted by a state trooper escort for the roughly 30-mile journey. The fire was under control when they arrived, but the local firefighters were looking for relief.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“They were extremely overwhelmed and everybody was burnt out,” Baker said. “You have the problem of once they start burning themselves out and dropping. Your fire can go back out and start taking over more property.”

The Warren County firefighters were able to aid them by giving them a break and make sure the fire was completely under control with just a few hot spots for the local firefighters to watch over night.

Eight years ago Baker joined the Culkin Fire Department to serve the community. For a few months he took a certification class two nights a week. In the class, he learned how to cut a roof properly, how to hold a hose while climbing the ladder and other skills necessary to safely contain a fire. Not long after he passed his certification test, Baker’s own house caught fire and he was one of the first people on the scene.

Firefighting is a family business. Baker’s wife Chasity is also a firefighter, and he has an uncle who was a career and volunteer firefighter in Georgia.

Now at the Fisher Ferry Fire Department, Baker is a lieutenant and serves as the treasurer of the department.

“Along with being a firefighter he does a lot behind the scenes,” Warren County Fire Services Coordinator Jerry Briggs said.

He said Baker is a good guy who is dedicated to the fire department.

“[He is] Very hard working and instrumental in taking care of those everyday activities along with being a firefighter,” Briggs said.

His day job as a contractor technician at the Army Corp. of Engineers is flexible enough where most of the time he is able to leave work for a fire call. The people he works with understand his responsibilities to the fire department.

“Luckily most of the people I work with out there live in the county so they understand and appreciate it,” Baker said. “There’s been multiple times I’ve had to leave in the middle of the day, come back a few hours later, come back in on Saturday, and finish what I was doing.”

There are times when work commitments prevent him from being able to help, which can be difficult to swallow.

“There’s been a couple of calls I had to miss because we’re in the middle of a meeting or something’s got a time crunch to it and you’ve just got to sit there and listen to everyone else doing it [fighting the fire], it really irritates you but you’ve got to do your day job first,” Baker said.

Over the years, the adrenaline rush of fighting a fire has worn off a little for Baker, but when people are involved, it changes the outlook.

“The wrecks seem to get your adrenaline up a little more than the fires do because that’s usually guaranteed to involve a person,” Baker said. “Fires, probably a little more than 90 percent of the time, people are out and that’s who called you so everybody’s fine. It’s just loss of property.”

Many of the people Baker helps serve are his friends and coworkers in the county. Calls will come in often on people’s homes he knows. When things get tough, the people come together.

“The community comes together,” Baker said. “There is a lot of people that don’t want to step up and be a full time-volunteer, but when it’s in front of them they’ll stop and help.”