Fire chiefs seek more input with equipment decisions
By Rupert Howell
An intense meeting Thursday night of the Panola County Fire Chief’s Association revealed some rural fire chiefs want more input into planning how Panola County budgets available funds on equipment.
Three county supervisors, Emergency Management personnel and County Fire Coordinator Daniel Cole hashed out issues and concerns expressed by chiefs of rural fire departments and fire grading districts.
Four rural fire districts have recently been made fire grading districts putting those areas’ administrative duties under county supervision. Other rural districts currently maintain their own administrative duties by operating as a nonprofit organization governed by boards of commissioners.
Municipal districts including Batesville, Como, Courtland, Crenshaw and Sardis are governed by their boards of mayor and aldermen.
Cole has recently recommended the county create two positions for qualified firefighters to assist grading districts and other departments if needed by responding to all structure fires with tanker trucks located at the Sardis Emergency management building as well as assisting the grading districts’ with maintenance and readiness as well as paperwork.
Fire Coordinator Cole explained to supervisors earlier that often rural departments were short handed during the day as most volunteers were away at their employment.
Several of the rural chiefs noted Thursday night someone would “be there” when fire occurs with Cole agreeing but stating, “We are having to tone out more and more departments to have enough firemen.”
Another chief said his main issue was that he first learned of the planned changes and proposals by reading it in the newspaper and expressed that firefighters or chiefs should be the ones recommending plans.
Cole agreed but reminded chiefs he had previously sent home with them a form to fill out for a five-year plan and none were returned.
Supervisor board President Cole Flint reminded fire chiefs that the supervisor board had voted to do nothing as of this date. He explained that Cole had come to them with a plan during budget making and supervisors had included an amount in the budget for fire upgrades.
He also stated he and his board had discussed fire grants with every local, state and federal elected official and will continue to seek outside funds for rural fire departments.
Volunteer firefighter and former chief Jerry Cranford who assists Cole with fire coordinator duties asked if any of the departments that had recently gone to grading districts under county administration had any problems or issues since the changeover. At first their was no response and then one firefighter said the length of time getting a pumper to his department was a problem.
Cole quickly agreed that it had taken too long and he would put before supervisors the following Monday a request to get the pumper ready and delivered.
Supervisor Donald Phelps asked the chiefs to put in writing the most desired needs and turn them over to the fire coordinator who could compile them and let the association prioritize them during a regular monthly meeting.