Old Equipment Puts Firefighters And Residents In Danger - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

08/09/04

Old Equipment Puts Firefighters And Residents In Danger

What if the fire Department you depend on to protect your home and family only had old and broken equipment ? WLOX News found out what West Hancock Volunteer firefighters have to work with could put them and citizens of Pearlington in danger.

Few uniforms and failing gear are nothing new for the West Hancock Volunteer firefighters. They were using the same equipment to fight this blaze five years ago, as they use today.

"This one here is leaking," Donald Ray said as he pointed to the tank on his air pack.

Seventeen year old Ray is one of the newest things around here. Some of the Department's water hoses date back to the 1960's. The fire suits aren't quite that old, only 30 years or so. But the department has 30 firefighters and only 8 suits.

"If there's not enough to go around then we basically a lot of times fight fire without. That's extremely dangerous and should never be done but in the volunteer atmosphere in the country with the budgets a lot of us have its a have to situation," Chief Kim Jones said.

Chief Jones says they get by with what they have. Budget constraints don't allow for many extras. Hand-me-down air tanks from city fire departments are appreciated, but not perfect. Firefighter Donald Ray, knows that better than anyone.

"The head of the cylinder is leaking ,so you may have ten minutes instead of 30 minutes because of its leaking. See like right there," Ray said as his air stopped running.

"It's gone if I'd been in a house fire or something like that or in a woods fire and caught all that smoke I could be gone right now."

There is a shiny new fire truck in the West Hancock Station. A grant from Department of Homeland Security and FEMA paid for most of it. But it's not ready to roll.

"We need the holes, nozzles the foam equipment for our industrial customers that we service," Chief Jones said.

That will cost about $55,000 alone. Updating worn out gear will cost several thousand more. A benefit fundraiser will be held at the Turtle Landing Bar and Grill on Old Highway 90 in the Pearlington Community Saturday August 7th starting at 11 am.

Food, children's fun, raffles and some bands will all be part of the fundraising event.

By: Al Showers

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