Gulfport's mayor says the Day of Reckoning is here. On Monday Ken Combs signed on to a project that will give thousands of Orange Grove residents better fire protection. The federal government is picking up most of the $5.2 million tab.
This project is coming just in the nick of time. City officials say the fire bureau will pay a visit to Orange Grove soon. They needed to show improvements to water pressure so the area wouldn't lose its good fire rating, but firefighters told me keeping insurance rates low isn't the only concern.
When fire erupts, Gulfport firefighters latch on to the nearest water source. Sometimes that's a pond. Sometimes that's a hydrant. The trouble is that in Orange Grove, the hydrants only work some of the time.
"It's critical that we have the water supply and that we have good pressure from hydrants to protect the property that we have up here," fire chief Pat Sullivan said.
The road to better fire protection started with a swipe of Mayor Ken Combs' pen. The Army Corps of Engineers will help pay for upgrades to what used to be Orange Grove utilities.
"It's also gonna enable us to grow more," said council member Billy Hewes. "We have not had the water supply that would enable us to grow and allow more subdivisions to come on line because we didn't have adequate water supply to go there."
Right now firefighters make do with tanker trucks. But they lack complete confidence that they'll always have the water needed to do their job.
"He has got to have the peace of mind that when he opens that nozzle on the end of that fire hose that water is gonna come out and that that stream is gonna be effective in putting out the fire or protecting him and the person he's trying to rescue," said Sullivan.
Gulfport is paying for part of the project. The city's share is 25 percent. City engineers expect the upgrades to be finished about October of 2005.