Fire trucks, helicopters, more fill convention this weekend

Published 12:11 am Friday, June 3, 2016

NATCHEZ — Hundreds of firefighters will come to the Natchez Convention Center this weekend, hoping to mix business with pleasure.

Natchez will host the 79th annual Mississippi Fire Chiefs and Firefighters Convention, which is expected to bring 300 fire protection professionals together for networking and sharing ideas.

The event will include firefighters, fire chiefs and vendors.

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Convention Center General Manager Walter Tipton said the large group is expected to bring a lot of business to the Natchez area, including its hotels and restaurants.

A helicopter and four fire trucks were moved inside the main convention center as displays, Tipton said, a feat that had to be carefully orchestrated.

The helicopter had to be partially disassembled in order to fit through the door.

“The company that’s bringing the helicopter has a mechanic that is coming in special just to take the rotors off,” Tipton said. “Everything has to be staged so each person comes in on their designated schedule.”

Natchez Fire Chief Aaron Wesley said he is excited to be hosting this year’s convention.

“We’re gaining a lot of insight and information,” he said. “There will be a lot of vendors selling state-of-the-art equipment and new training and new technology.”

The networking the event provides, Wesley said, is invaluable, but he’s also glad to be able to show his colleagues throughout the state the best Natchez has to offer.

“They love coming to Natchez,” Wesley said. “Natchez is a unique city.”

Batesville Fire Chief Tim Taylor said he attends the convention every year, but is always glad when Natchez hosts the event.

“Natchez is one of my favorite towns in Mississippi,” Taylor said. “It’s the culture, the atmosphere and the air about the town. And they have a good facility here, as good as you could want.”

For Taylor, the convention is a great opportunity to share ideas with other chiefs in the state on how to improve fire protection service in their areas.

“Some of the best ideas come from sitting and chatting with other chiefs,” he said. “I’ve always had a good experience and a lot of fun here.”

For vendors Ryan Brown and David Bryant, who represent North American Fire Equipment Company, the event is also a great opportunity to sell new equipment.

Brown said he would show convention participants protective clothing, lights, masks and even trucks.

“We’re telling them about the latest and greatest that firefighters can use to better serve their communities,” Brown said. “We have everything but the water and the Dalmatians. And if they got the money, we can find them a dog.”

Bryant said for him, the event is about networking.

“You get to see volunteer (fire departments) you don’t normally get to see while traveling,” he said. “It’s good exposure. I hope they see something they like.”