By NATHAN GREGORY
Three county leaders attended the Mississippi State Fire Academy for Elected/Public Officials in Jackson Thursday and received information about how the Mississippi Fire Ratings Bureau determines its rating of fire districts as well as the need for municipalities to continuously prioritize their budgets to have funding for fire equipment upgrades.
Oktibbeha County Administrator Don Posey, District 4 Supervisor Daniel Jackson and Sturgis Alderman Amanda Paige joined County Fire Grant Administrator Austin Check and more than 20 elected officials from across the state in learning the basic operations of local fire departments and the Mississippi Fire Rating System.
Attendees also had the opportunity to put on outer protective clothing used by firemen, commonly referred to as turnout gear, and extinguish a simulated fire in the academy’s training facility. Officials also donned self-contained breathing apparatuses and repelled from the top of a multiple-story structure to get a better understanding of how first responders remove people from tall buildings on fire.
Jackson said measures to maintain and improve fire ratings were among items discussed at the training session.
“The reason Austin Check wanted us to go was to understand what (the MSFA does) down there and how important it is to replace equipment as it becomes necessary. Knowing that we have a lot of outdated trucks, he wanted the board to be aware that we have to do our best to make sure we don’t allow too much equipment to get outdated,” Jackson said. “Taxpayers just have to remember this equipment costs money just like any road equipment we use. People have to understand if they want fire protection and updated equipment they have to pay for it.”
Posey said the academy session provided a wealth of invaluable information and he hopes more county officials are able to attend in the future to gain that knowledge and be able to consider it whenever budget funding is discussed during board meetings.
“I was really impressed by the training staff (the MSFA) had. They have 28 full-time members who are seasoned firefighters, and their job is to work at the fire academy. I was impressed with the apparatuses and the training buildings they had,” Posey said. “Our state academy … is one of the highest ranked in the nation. People from other states come to go through our training school. I can see why after being there.”
Paige said she plans to use the information she learned from the academy to look for possible grants the town of Sturgis can apply for to provide funding for equipment updates.
“Any alderman or official needs to go through the fire academy. I got a lot of information on what (firemen) have to do on a daily basis. I learned a lot not just from the academy but from officials in the group who attended,” Paige said. “I appreciate what they go through every day and have a greater of appreciation of what they do just to be trained to save lives and property.”
Check said he was pleased with the amount of local participation in the academy and hopes to have more elected officials attend similar sessions in the future.
“This gets public officials involved on the front end of decisions as far as community planning, equipment upgrades, training and budgetary matters,” Check said. “They were able to get a hands-on view of what we’re dealing with today, so they’re not surprised when we make requests for funding and there’s an understanding on both sides.”