Brooklyn VFD replaces truck totaled in 2016 wreck

By BETH BUNCH,

The Brooklyn Volunteer Fire Department and the Forrest County Board of Supervisors received an early treat during October when they took possession of a shiny new firetruck.

The truck was needed after their previous truck was totaled by the insurance company following a wreck in October 2016. The accident on Hwy. 49 busted the truck’s pump, rear axles and dislodged the axle from the chassis, according to Brooklyn Fire Chief David Smith.

At that time, the truck was approximately 17 years old and was valued at $138,000 when purchased.

The new truck with a Peterbilt chassis, from here in Hattiesburg, can carry 1,000 gallons of water and has a 1,250 GPM (gallons per minute) pump.

“It’s just a lot better and newer truck than we had,” said Smith. “We’re really proud of it, because we needed it.”

While the county got back the $138,000 value of the truck in insurance money, the cost of a new truck to replace it carried a much heftier price tag – $262,037. The vehicle was the equivalent of the wrecked vehicle.

In February, while working with an already tight budget, the supervisors came up with a financial plan to make it easier on everyone to obtain a new truck.

In the end, along with the insurance money, $28,000 came from the Brooklyn VFD levy, $50,000 from the county’s general fund with $48,000-plus left to be financed.

At that time, County Fire Coordinator Chip Brown asked the board for the money in order to make the note more easy to handle for the Brooklyn department, apologizing at the same time for the extra expense.

“They can handle a $49,000 note, but not $100,000,” Brown said of the volunteer fire department located in the southeast corner of

the county. “The volunteer revenue is not enough to pay $250,000 or more,” he said.

It was noted at that time by Board President David Hogan that “it’s just disappointing the state has failed to provide the funds to help us provide fire protection out in the county.”

Hogan was referring to the Rural Fire Truck Acquisition Assistance Program, which could have provided as much as another $70,000 toward the purchase of a new truck, with funds being matched by the county.

“It was such a good program, which provided a good service and helped keep insurance premiums low.”

The program was created in 1995 by the Mississippi Legislature and adminis ered through the Department of Insurance to assist in the purchase of new firetrucks for rural areas. But for the last several years, the Legislature has failed to fund the program, leaving volunteer fire departments across the state in a lurch.

It was feared with only one truck in operation at the Brooklyn VFD, residents of the area could potentially lose their current fire rating, which would have meant higher insurance premiums.

District 5 Supervisor Chris Bowen reiterated the fact that area citizens could be subject to losing their insurance rating.

“This is the third year in a row this program hasn’t been funded,” said Bowen. “It’s hurting a lot of other small departments. We’re back to where we were with 30-year-old firetrucks.”

At that time Brown said the county was also in need for four new trucks, one each in Dixie, Carnes, Macedonia and the Brooklyn truck.

“We keep patching and doing what we can to keep them on the road, but in many instances it doesn’t help,” he said.

Hogan also noted that prior to the accident, the county was in need of several new trucks, noting that the rating service will only allow a department to keep a truck for 15 to 20 years and still maintain still its insurance rating.

Brown noted the life expectancy of a new commercial truck was 18 to 20 years.

Smith, who has been with the Brooklyn VFD fpr about seven years, says the department has about 15 firefighters, including his wife, Meghan, who has been a volunteer for a little more than a year.

The department makes 35 to 50 calls a month, most of which are accidents or medical calls.

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