Harrison Co. Fire Service considers staffing improvements - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Harrison Co. Fire Service considers staffing improvements

Sullivan says the county currently has 11 full-time and eight part-time fire personnel. (Photo source: WLOX) Sullivan says the county currently has 11 full-time and eight part-time fire personnel. (Photo source: WLOX)
Along with equipment, facilities and personnel, water availability is another key component in a fire rating. (Photo source: WLOX) Along with equipment, facilities and personnel, water availability is another key component in a fire rating. (Photo source: WLOX)
HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

Harrison County's Fire Chief would like to staff the busiest fire stations 24 hours a day. Currently, the overnight hours are covered by volunteer firefighters at the county's 14 fire stations.

Providing 24 hour staffing at fire stations would not only improve response times. It would very likely lower the fire rating, which means home owners would pay less for insurance.    

Volunteers remain the backbone of the Harrison County Fire Service. There are roughly 140 volunteers with just 11 full-time and eight part-time firefighter positions.

Chief Pat Sullivan says putting just one paid firefighter at a station overnight means that firefighter could get the truck rolling quickly.

Then, the volunteers can either come pull other trucks, can respond to a station and pull additional trucks or they'll go straight to the scene. That's going to reduce the amount of time between the call for help and help arriving on the scene,” said Sullivan.

County supervisors are on board with the idea. In fact, one board member mentioned it this week while Sullivan was announcing the West Harrison District had received an improved fire rating.

“That's something, I think, in the future, the board of supervisors really needs to look at. Provide 24 hour personnel at our fire stations. Which means, I think, right off the bat, Pat correct me if I'm wrong, that would reduce the rating right there,” said Supervisor Marlin Ladner.

“We'll pick the areas that have the most calls, the area that has the most population. Areas that would be served best by a 24 hour firefighter, and those are the areas we would start with,” said Sullivan.

Along with equipment, facilities and personnel, water availability is another key component in a fire rating. That too has improved here in Harrison County, with a number of new fire hydrants being installed.

The county has done a great job of putting out more fire hydrants, putting out more fire protection lines. We're getting the water into the county, the areas we need to get. The next step, of course, is the 24 hour in fire station protection,” said Sullivan.

The biggest challenge to accomplishing the transition to 24 hour staffing is money. The county's budget is very tight at the moment. That's part of the reason why Sullivan sees this as a five-year goal for the fire service.

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