In 1995, the Mississippi Legislature was able to establish the Rural Fire Truck Acquisition Assistance Program, helping Lamar County buy 10 new fire engines over the course of that year.
Round 13 of that program, recently approved by the Legislature, will pave the way for $160,000 in grand funding to add two new trucks to the county’s fire protection agencies: a pumper truck for Southeast Volunteer Fire Department and an initial attack truck for Hickory Grove Fire Volunteer Fire Department. The applications for the grants were approved by the Lamar County Board of Supervisors during last week’s regular board meeting.
“Fire protection is a basic public service; what firefighters do is save lives and property,” Lamar County Fire Coordinator George Stevens said. “One of the benefits of their efforts – and the county’s efforts – to save lives and property is that there’s less losses of structures, and that has a dollar affect on insurance premiums.
“The age of your apparatus comes into play with the Mississippi State Rating Bureau. Pine Ridge Fire Grading District last month went from a Class 8 to a Class 7, and that saved them $594 a year. I tell people that I don’t think fire protection actually costs – fire protection pays.”
The funding for Southeast VFD’s new pumper truck comes courtesy of a $70,000 supplemental grant. Upon receiving the grant, officials will transfer a 2001 Southeast VFD truck to the Oloh Volunteer Fire Department, and will sell a 1996 engine assigned to Oloh to be applied to the purchase price of the Southeast truck.
“Commercial pumpers have a life span of pretty much 20 years, and we’ve got some that are over 20 years, so it’s been difficult,” Stevens said. “Trucks are getting expensive – pumpers cost about $300,000 or $320,000, so that (grant) money goes a long way to helping us keep our fleet modern.”
Upon receipt of the $90,000 grant for the Hickory Grove VFD initial attack truck, Hickory Grove’s Ford F-550 rescue truck will be sent to Southeast VFD. The attack truck features a 300-gallon tank, a 500-gallon pump and adequate storage for other equipment.
“That (initial attack truck) runs about $200,000,” Stevens said. “The one they have now is giving them a lot of trouble, so we’re to going retire that truck, take the body off and give it to another department. It’s good to run medical calls on, or to go to grass fires and it has extraction equipment on it, so it’s a workhorse.
“It’s not a full-size pumper – it costs about $120,000 less – and for the mission it has, it’s very cost-effective. In some ways, it’s more versatile than the pumper – we can put a monitor on the front bumper to have pump-and-roll capabilities. I’ve been able to put out a fire on the interstate from a mile by myself, without even having to get out of the truck.”
Funds not covered by the grants will come from the existing budgets of the various fire departments in the county.
“Some of them have paid off debt, and as they pay off debt, we’ll buy additional trucks,” Stevens said. “One of the things that we’re very fortunate for is when we go through the Mississippi Development Authority, loans for fire trucks are for 10 years at 2 percent interest rate, and that makes them affordable.
“And part of it’s going to come from the sale of the old trucks; it’s not any additional burden on the county.”