New fire rating good news for Petal

By HASKEL BURNS,

Friendly City officials expect the Petal Fire Department’s new fire rating of 4 – which was recently improved from a 5 by the Mississippi State Rating Bureau – to be a huge boost for residents and businesses within the city limits.

“Our commercial businesses stand to save on their fire insurance premiums because of this,” Mayor Hal Marx said. “It just shows that we have a very good level of fire protection inside the city, and hopefully it’ll lead to more people wanting to locate here, both residentially and commercially.”

Municipalities’ fire ratings are ranked on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the best and 10 the worst, depending on how well-equipped the fire departments are. Generally, a 1 rating means superior fire protection, while a 10 rating means the fire department did not meet standards from the Insurance Services Office.

“I don’t believe there are many cities in Mississippi that have a (better rating) than a 4 – I think in most places, that’s about as (good) as you go,” Marx said. “It’s a tremendous achievement for our fire department. I congratulate Chief Joe Hendry and Assistant Chief Marion Sims and all of the department for their hard work in getting us to this point.

“When I became mayor in 2009, we were a level 6, so we’ve moved to 5 and now 4. It wasn’t that long ago – probably 15, 20 years ago – that we were a level 7, so we have steadily improved over the last 15 or 20 years with our fire department. We went from a quasi-volunteer to a full-time, professional paid fire department.”

Marx said the city’s rating was improved by the MSRB, in part, because the fire department added more manpower and a ladder truck, in addition to the city’s high water pressure.

“We also added a full-time fire educator to our department; that’s something the fire rating department wanted us to have,” he said. “Also, we have a full-time fire inspector who goes and inspects businesses and new construction to make sure they’re up to fire safety standards. So all of those things going in together played a part in that.”

Thanks to a SAFER Grant, the department recently was able to add nine firefighters, bringing the total number of full-time firefighters to 36.

“And it’s not just firefighting protection – we also have protection for other hazards and disasters,” Marx said. “We have equipment for rescuing people in floods, we have a swift-water rescue dive team, we’ve got equipment for chemical fires.

“We just have a well-balanced, top-notch fire department.”