Hoping to light a fireBy BRYAN DAVIS PUBLISHER,
Two Delta women are looking to light a fire under the wives and immediate female relatives of firemen throughout the state.
Petey Mixon and Dorothy “Dot” Outlaw say the women’s participation in the state’s Firemen’s Auxiliary organization has shrunk significantly over the years, a trend they hope to reverse.
“The women’s part of it has started declining in terms of membership,” Outlaw, whose husband Henry Outlaw served as fire chief in Belzoni for many years, told The E-T in a recent interview.
Outlaw says she has held every position open in the Firemen’s Auxiliary over the years, and she is still serving as president today.
For decades, she would accompany her husband to the state firemen’s convention each year, and she said there were as many as 75 to 100 ladies who would come.
Back then, the convention was sometimes the only vacation the family got, so they would all bring their kids, she said.
“The younger firefighters who come don’t even bring their wives (anymore),” Outlaw said. “The older firefighters always brought their wives and children. When I first started coming, they would hire people to take care of the children…As the years went by, and we all got older, the children grew up and these young ones coming in, they don’t really care.”
Mixon, a Sunflower County resident, said the count has dwindled to less than 20 auxiliary participants throughout the state, with most of them coming out of the state’s northern region, which includes the Delta.
“It’s really important, and it’s really getting weak, because the last conference we had 16 show up,” Mixon said. “This is statewide. This is not just Sunflower County.”
Outlaw and Mixon said the local auxiliary organization is important to the firemen, because they act as backup for the firemen.
If there is a large fire, and their husbands have to be gone a long time, the auxiliary typically keeps those firemen supplied with food and water.
Outlaw said she can recall when her husband did not come home for a week while tending to a school fire in Humphreys County.
“The auxiliary did food and kept water up there,” she said. “The fire lasted for like two days. It was multiple departments. We kept all of those firefighters fed. Did it in shifts.”
Outlaw said the organization also aids the firemen in the different causes they are involved in throughout their communities, but Mixon said there is another reason why it is so important.
“The women married to the firefighters should know each other,” she said.
As Outlaw approaches her 50th year as an auxiliary member, she is hoping a new generation of firefighters’ wives will answer the call and grow the organization moving forward.