County agrees to buy badly needed gear for volunteer firefighters

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, October 5, 2022

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NATCHEZ — It took an impassioned plea by an Adams County volunteer firefighter to convince the Adams County Board of Supervisors to purchase gear to outfit about 10 of them.

Billie Haley-Humphreys, who is an assistant chief of the Liberty Road Fire District and is the administrative assistant for the Adams County Fire Service, held up a hand-me-down jacket showing much wear and a rip in the back as an example of the poor equipment Adams County’s volunteer firefighters are forced to use now.

“All of this we do completely free of charge, all four county departments, not even gas money. We try not to ask for much. We understand budgets can be tight,” Haley-Humphreys said. “This is what we have for gear. This is our gear. This was donated to us from Ridgeland. And when I tell you this is some of the better gear, I mean it…We need gear. I cannot go in a burning building wearing this. I am not safe.”

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District 5 Supervisor Angela Hutchins said when she was shown the gear last weekend at the LaGrange Oktoberfest, “that kind of touched me that they had to wear gear from another fire department, saying Adams County cannot provide gear to fight fire.”

Adams County Fire Services Coordinator Darryl Smith had asked for $80,000 to provide gear for all volunteer firefighters using fire rebate money, but that request was denied, said Angie King, county administrator.

King said she told Smith it was took much to purchase at one time, and suggested they buy half one year and half the next, but that did not happen.

Adams County Emergency Management Director Brad Bradford said the cost for buying gear for 10 firefighters would be about $36,000, including personal protection gear, such as fire-resistant pants, coats and boots, and the self-contained breathing apparatus.

“I came to you all last year and asked for $36,000 and said let’s go ahead and get this, and y’all said no,” Bradford said. “We did the bare minimum. We just need to man up and stop letting the city dictate how we spend the money that comes to us.”

Adams County contracts for fire services from the City of Natchez.

“We are talking about lives here. $36,000 is nothing compared to a life,” Hutchins said.

She moved to provide $36,000 to purchase fire gear for the county’s fire service, pending a meeting with the county administrator to locate the money in the recently passed budget. Supervisors approved the motion.