GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Firefighters from throughout Mississippi are attending a conference here on the Coast. The City of Gulfport is hosting the 77th annual Fire Chiefs Association convention.
More than 200 firefighters showed up to check out the latest turnout gear and life-saving equipment, which includes everything from breathing tanks to extrication devices.
"Anytime we can make it more portable or lightweight. Of course, our convenience is not the thing, it's to save lives. That's what we're in the business for," said Mark Russell, who sells extrication equipment for TNT.
The ability to network with colleagues is a big benefit. Fire chiefs coping with tight budgets can share advice with each other.
"You get to share that collective wisdom with the people in this room and find out how people are tackling these problems we're all facing in some way or other in our own municipalities," said Gulfport Fire Chief Michael Beyerstedt.
"We get to meet and network with other fire chiefs across the state. See what they're doing to better their department and better the fire service in Mississippi," said Brian Grissom, the Fire Chief of Iuka, MS.
The parking lot at the Marriott was filled with fire engines and rescue trucks including vehicles from the only fire truck manufacturer in Mississippi: Deep South.
"We come to every show. We've been to every Mississippi show there is because we're based in the state of Mississippi, and we're the only fire truck manufacturer in the state," said Robert Barber, a vendor for Deep South.
While all the new equipment and advice from others is nice, the end result still relies on the dedication and training of these first responders.
"Helping somebody at a medical call or rescuing someone at a fire call and doing something along those lines, it's a tough job and I'm very proud of the men and women who do it," said Scott Berry, who is President of the Fire Chiefs Association.