Houston firefighters compete to benefit burned Mantachie child

By JB Clark
NEMS Daily Journal
MANTACHIE – Itawamba County’s firemen went head-to-head Saturday to raise money for a toddler they helped save in October.Mantachie firemen were the first responders to 3-year-old Gabe Wiggington’s side when he was severely burned last fall. An old tank had been burning and flames reached Gabe. He’s been hospitalized ever since.

On Saturday, Mantachie and five other Itawamba County fire departments competed in an obstacle course and chili cook-off to raise money for Gabe’s family.

Teams from Mantachie, Fulton, Evergreen, Houston and Tilden made donations to Gabe’s memorial fund to compete.

“Gabe’s grandfather, Jimmy Ensley, is in our fire department, so it felt like the right thing to do,” Mantachie firefighter Nathan Wilburn said about the fundraiser. “He loves fire trucks, so what better way to raise money and have some fun.”

Gabe’s grandfather, known by everyone in Mantachie as “Booger,” was on hand to cheer on the Mantachie firefighters.

“Gabe is an amazing little boy and there is no medical reason for him to be alive right now so there is only one reason you need to look at for that – God,” Ensley said. “Gabe is a miracle and he is doing fantastic. He may get to come home in two or three weeks if everything goes good.”

Eileen Woolridge, public relations director for the Mantachie Fire Department, said the firefighters are big guys who like to act tough, but when it comes to children they are all big softies.

The obstacle course consisted of a small-space crawl simulation, a target that had to be knocked down using a fire hose, a forced-entry simulation, a fire hose carry and fire victim carry. The Houston Fire Department had the best obstacle course time and took home the first-place trophy.

After the competition, everyone went back to the Mantachie Fire Station for a chili cook-off. Teams from the Itawamba Sheriff’s Office, Calvary Pentecostal Church, Mantachie Fire Department, Fulton Fire Department, Kim’s Restaurant and Tilden Fire Department competed.

The Mantachie Fire Department won the chili cook-off. All proceeds from the two events went to the Benefit Gabe Wiggington fund at BancorpSouth.