|By Billy Davis
A 1962 Ford pumper truck belonging to the Red Hill Volunteer Fire Department has an important destination: the Batesville Christmas parade.
The classic fire truck will make its public debut at the December 6 event, marking its first time on the road since the City of Sardis Fire Department donated the vehicle to Red Hill five years ago.
The donated fire truck has sat idle since then, however, a symbol of Red Hill’s belated efforts to organize and equip the department after the area became a county fire district in 2000.
While progress crawled forward, the Batesville, Sardis and Curtis-Locke Station fire departments answered fire calls in the Red Hill community.
Starting soon, that could all change.
"We hope to be answering calls by January," said Red Hill Fire Chief Dennis Pearson, who was putting a fresh coat of paint – fire engine red, of course – on the vehicle last week.
The fire department’s leadership recently tapped Pearson as chief after the resignation of long-time Chief Joe Gardner during the summer.
Gardner quit amid a department tussle over leadership and priorities, but the dust has apparently settled since Gardner plans to work as a volunteer firefighter.
"I intend to support them any way I can because the community needs a fire department," Gardner said when reached Monday morning.
A search for manpower is the greatest need of the Red Hill department, Pearson said, especially able-bodied volunteers who can respond to calls during the day.
"We’ve got 10 volunteers right now, but most of them are available at night and on the weekends," Pearson said. "We’re looking for volunteers who are available for the dayshift."
Red Hill is considering the purchase of a 1975 tanker truck owned by the Courtland Volunteer Fire Department, the fire chief said, and hopes to purchase radios through a rifle raffle at Batesville Pawn Shop.
The fire district owns a fire station, a three-bay metal building located on Barnacre Road near Wilson Road.
A well-equipped volunteer fire department is helpful for both fire calls
and insurance costs, said civil defense director Son Hudson, who also serves as fire coordinator for the city and county fire departments.
When Red Hill can display the proper equipment and manpower in the coming weeks, the fire district will be certified with an insurance rating of 10, the highest number in the ranking.
"Some people don’t realize it, but a volunteer fire department can be their best friend," Hudson said. "The more they give to the department, the more it saves them when that number drops to a seven or an eight."