Fire Chiefs Meet in Meridian

By: Lindsey Brown Email
By: Lindsey Brown Email

Fire chiefs from across Mississippi are in Meridian for the annual state Fire Chiefs Association mid-winter conference.

Fire service leaders, equipment vendors and key legislative partners are participating.

Former Meridian fire chief Jeff Homan is the president of the association and worked to bring the conference to the queen city.

"We can't accomplish anything on a one on one basis," said Homan. "Our power is in our organization structure bringing volunteers across the state together for the common good of the fire service and our citizens."

Friday the chiefs will be working with Mississippi legislators to see what can be done at the Capitol to protect residents from preventable fires.

With the temperatures dropping, the risk of fires is going up. Mississippi has one of the highest rates of fire deaths in the entire country and that is of great concern to this group.

Not only is reducing the amount of fire deaths a concern, fire chiefs in town from across the state say it is a main priority.

"Each mission is to prevent fire deaths," said Rob Martin, Brandon's fire chief. "We would love for never to have another fire truck roll out to a fire. Unfortunately, that's not reality."

In reality, we are moving into one of the most dangerous times of year when it comes to fires deaths. The cold weather, paired with a recession, and the holiday season can be recipe for disaster.

Officials say chimneys are being used more, some for the first time in a long time, and they haven't been cleaned properly. That's a fire hazard.

People are letting things add to that. Christmas and the dry Christmas trees and we just add to our problems.

One of the greatest resource, according to these fire chiefs, is taking information and messages they've learned from each other back home to make their communities safer.

But many times education is met with resistance by an adult population often not interested in safety tips.

"Adults really don't want to hear that," said Martin. "'Oh, I know what I'm doing; I've done this all my life,'. But I've never been to a fire where a person says this was slower than I thought; they are surprised every time by how fast a fire moves."

Among the fifty states, Mississippi ranks fourth in the rate of deaths due to fire, at about 25.5 for every million people in the state, just behind Kansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

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