OKOLONA — Serving his community is Joseph Henson’s goal as Okolona’s newest firefighter.
Henson, an Okolona native, has taken a part-time post with the Okolona Fire Department after finishing his training at the Mississippi Fire Academy in February.
“I have been a volunteer firefighter and then I served a couple of tours in the Army,” said Henson. “After being overseas a couple of time I was ready to get back home and help the people I know as a firefighter.”
Henson said he got his first taste of a career as a firefighter as an Explorer with the local Boy Scout post. He said he became a volunteer, got a little training and started showing up for fires.
But Henson said his training at the state fire academy has greatly enhanced his ability to help the community and other firefighters.
“Going to a fire now, compared to when I was a volunteer, is like daylight and dark,” said Henson. “The fire academy training introduces you to so many different threats and shows you what to look for, how to respond and how to keep the public, yourself and fellow firefighters from getting hurt.”
The six-week training at the fire academy was heavy on safety and equipment training.
“I think the training in the heat building where you actually got to see and feel the flames was the best and most eye opening,” said Henson. “You need a healthy amount of fear to stay safe, but your training helps you overcome much of the fear and respond appropriately.”
Henson learned everything from fire characteristics and explosive threats to equipment care and use.
The training also included one week of hazardous material handling and fire suppression in both a highway and industrial setting.
Okolona Fire Chief Terry Tucker said it all boils down to training.
“When things get hot and start popping, you really have to rely on your training,” said Tucker. “And when you know the guy next to you is properly trained it allows you to do your job with more confidence.”
And Henson is no rookie to threats having served one tour in Iraq and two in Afghanistan as an Army scout.
Henson, 25, is the son of the Judy Henson and the late Johnny Henson. He still serves part-time with the Mississippi National Guard.
The Okolona Fire Department is made up of four full-time firefighters and three part-time firefighters. The department also has about 12 active volunteers.