Firefighters in town for conference

Published 2:56 pm Thursday, June 7, 2007

NATCHEZ — If half a dozen fire trucks are parked outside the Natchez Convention Center, don’t worry. They’re not there to put out a fire or rescue a cat.

The building is playing host to the Mississippi Fire Chief’s and Firefighter’s Associations’ conventions this week.

Each year, the associations hold a convention in different towns. This week’s convention, which started Thursday and will last through Saturday, will bring in about 300 people, Tourism Director Walter Tipton said.

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Vendors set up displays of supplies such as fire boots and air tanks Wednesday. Later on in the week, firefighters will get a chance to attend training sessions, Tipton said.

The conventions are a chance to learn and network, Brandon Police Chief James Rutland said.

“We’re able to talk with firefighters from all over the state,” Rutland said. “A lot of times, we run into similar problems, and when we’re at a convention, we help each other.”

For Crystal Springs Fire Chief James Barnes, it’s a chance to meet friends and shop for supplies.

“We get a chance to look at new equipment and make contacts,” Barnes said.

“It’s a lot of fun. It takes a lot of work to put one of these things on.”

One of those responsible for this week’s convention was Natchez Fire Chief Paul Johnson.

“It’s kind of an honor that people want to come to your town and see how our department works,” Johnson said.

Along with discussing legislative issues and how to stay healthy, they’ll have some fun, too, Johnson said.

“It’s not all work,” he said. “(Wednesday), we had a golf tournament, and this weekend, we’ll have a cookout and lawnmower races.”