Volunteer depts. work to improve fire protection

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 8, 2002

Improving services and reducing fire insurance rates forhomeowners is the goal of activities under way at Lincoln Countyvolunteer fire departments, said Clifford Galey, president of thecounty’s volunteer firefighter association.

From new trucks to station additions or expansions, everydepartment is working on some kind of improvement, Galey said.

Galey’s East Lincoln Volunteer Fire Department last week pouredthe foundation to expands its station in anticipation of a new3,000 gallon class A pumper truck. About 10 feet of space will beadded for the truck, which is expected to arrive by December.

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“We realized our fire station would not accommodate the newtruck,” Galey said.

The new truck will cost around $189,000. The department willmake a $50,000 down payment and then have payments of about $14,000a year for 15 years, Galey said.

“Over the years, we’ve tried to set aside every penny we couldscrape up,” Galey said about department savings.

With an existing 1,000 gallon class A pumper truck and the newvehicle, Galey said his department will be able to respond to afire with 4,000 gallons of water. That is a big component of thedepartment’s goal to lower its rating from Class 10 to Class 9,hopefully within the next year, Galey said.

Several other county departments have or will be benefiting froma state rural fire truck acquisition program. The grant programprovides up to $50,000 to help departments purchase trucks.

Heuck’s Retreat Volunteer Fire Department is the next LincolnCounty department in line for a grant. Its 1,000 gallon class Apumper will cost around $140,000, which will be paid for throughthe grant and department fund-raising efforts.

“As soon as the legislature sell bonds to get the (grant) money,we’ve got everything in place to let bids on the Heuck’s Retreattruck,” Galey said.

Jim Craig, Heuck’s Retreat fire chief, said the department hasalso applied for a $140,000 federal grant, which must be matchedwith 10 percent local funds, to get a new truck. Craig hoped to beable to get a pumper and a tanker truck through the combination ofgrant funds.

“The trucks we’re moving are 25-30 years old,” Craig said aboutthe need for new vehicles.

So far four departments, Zetus, Bogue Chitto, Ruth and LoydStar, have received grants and purchased new trucks over the lastfew years. Savings and department fund-raisers have been used topay expenses over the grant amount.

Heuck’s Retreat is also in the process of planning two newstations. Holly Springs Baptist Church and Hilton Furr have donatedland, Craig said.

The station on the Furr property would cover the Lake Lincolncommunity and the county’s northeast corner. The station on thechurch property would be for the east-central portion of thedepartment’s area to Fair River and Sontag.

Craig estimated the two new stations would cost around $90,000.He also mentioned firefighter recruitment efforts to man thestations.

“We’ve got lots of plans, but we need lots of money,” Craigsaid.

Other county departments also have been busy with improvementefforts.

The Bogue Chitto Volunteer Fire Department recently completedconstruction of a second station at the intersection of Arlingtonand Bogue Chitto Road.

“It’s actually connected to the District Four county barn,”Galey said.

Following Heuck’s Retreat, Hog Chain will be the next in line toapply for a fire truck grant. The department’s leaders are drawingspecifications now for a 1,000 gallon class A pumper truck.

“We don’t build anything less than that,” Galey said about theminimum 1,000 gallon truck size.

The Loyd Star Volunteer Fire Department is in the process ofbuilding two new water trucks.

“We’re also working with them on a second station inCaseyville,” Galey said.

The Ruth Volunteer Fire Department has purchased an oldMississippi Department of Transportation building and land onHighway 583. A new station is planned, but it was not clear if orhow the existing building will be used, Galey said.

“It’s very much needed,” Galey said.

The Zetus Volunteer Fire Department is in the process ofbuilding a second station. It will be located near the intersectionof Gum Grove Road and Roberts Trail, Galey said.

The New Sight Volunteer Fire Department recently marked theone-year anniversary of its new class A pumper truck, Galeysaid.

A two-mile area around New Sight’s station is already designatedas Class 9. Galey said the department obtained a bank note toinstall fire hydrants in order to lower its rating.

“That’s the biggest holdup for the rest of us: to get waterwhere there’s no fire hydrants,” Galey said.

Each department receives only about $20,000 a year from statefire insurance premium rebates and from a county property tax levy.The county has about 180 volunteer firefighters, and Galey said itcosts about $3,000-$5,000 each to equip them with firefightinggear.

“Even though $20,000 sounds like a lot, we’re still out therepushing raffle tickets and that sort of thing so we can raisemoney, improve our equipment and try to lower our fire ratings,”Galey said.

Galey said all departments’ goal is to lower their fire ratingsfrom Class 10s to Class 9s, which in turn would help homeownerswith the fire insurance premiums. That reduction would providehomeowners with a 15 percent cut in the fire insurance premiums, hesaid.

To get each county fire department to a Class 9 rating wouldrequire a minimum of 19 stations in the county. Galey said thereare nine currently, and the total will rise to 13 when otherplanned stations are built.

There are also water supply requirements to get a lower rating.Galey said a department must be able to put 15,000 gallons of wateran hour on any spot in its rated area at any time.

“We also have to have very intensive records of firefightertraining and maintenance of all of our equipment,” Galey said.