Fire plan calling for volunteers

Published 12:13am Thursday, October 10, 2013

NATCHEZ — The newest version of the Natchez-Adams County fire protection agreement — which calls for an overall reduction in responses for the Natchez Fire Department outside the city limits — will ultimately require volunteer fire departments to become much more visible.

This weekend, the county fire departments are hoping to start just that, with open houses scheduled at the Liberty Road, Lake Montrose, Kingston and Foster Mound departments from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

“We want members of the community to come out and meet the volunteers, look at the trucks and see what we do,” Adams County Assistant Fire Coordinator Darryl Smith said.

“We will have some hand-outs about fire prevention and home exit drills for the adults, and for the kids we will have coloring books about fire prevention and little plastic fire helmets.”

The fire departments will also have forms available for those who want to sign up to be a volunteer firefighter.

Under the agreement reached between the county and the City of Natchez earlier this year, the number of calls the Natchez Fire Department has to respond to outside the city limits should be reduced to approximately 25 percent of annual non-medical calls.

To reduce the number of calls the NFD responds to, the plan calls for intensified recruitment of volunteer firefighters.

If the number of calls responded to outside the city limits exceeds 30 percent of total calls, a 3 percent fee for the current contract value — the 2013 contract is for $626,000 — will be assessed from the county. The penalty provision will not go into effect until April 2015.

Smith said those who wish to volunteer will have to pass a background check.

“(The departments) are trying to do shift work, where people in that area who are not working in the daytime, they can participate, and during the night, the ones who work during the day can respond,” he said.

Smith also said the county will have a training academy next month for the volunteers so they can be certified volunteer firefighters.

“The certification class will be about a month long in a classroom type setting, and they will also have skills learning they will participate in,” he said.

“Once they do the classroom, they will be able to take a test, and once they pass that part they will go to the state fire academy to get checked on their skills.”

A committee of city and county officials and a consultant crafted the current fire protection plan.

Long-range considerations in the plan include — among other things — a mutual-aid agreement between city and volunteer departments for water supply, cooperation between the city and county on grant funding for fire equipment assigned to the county, the construction of a county fire department 5 to 7 miles south of the city limits and creating a countywide fire district.