Study proposes ways to improve rural firefighting in Hancock Co.

Study proposes ways to improve rural firefighting in Hancock Co.
The Kiln Volunteer Fire Department is one of eight in the county.

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The firefighting tactics in rural Hancock County could be in for a makeover.

A lot of problems get discussed over a good lunch at Cruise in Cafe in the Kiln.  On this day, it's firefighting. Here, they like the idea of change.

"On both sides you can look at it," said life-long resident Jervis Moran. "Volunteers are a good thing but if they are full time, they're there, they don't have to come from work or somewhere to get there to give you quicker service.

"They give good service when they are on the job, give good service, volunteers. It just takes them time."

A study has been completed that proposes ways to increase efficiency and improve fire ratings. The Board of Supervisors are discussing the final draft of a Rural Fire District Consolidation Feasibility Study.

When or if its implemented, officials said it could mean good things for residents, including better insurance rates. While some think possible additions of full-time and part-time paid firefighters could challenge the historic volunteer-based system, officials say that won't happen.

Father Bob Higginbotham, pastor of Enunciation Catholic Church, is aware of the balance between culture and progress.

"On one hand, you have the volunteers who have a great deal of pride being volunteers in their community. It's a long history of people who have volunteered to take care of their community as firemen. On the other side, you're trying to, perhaps provide a more professional service that can be a little more dependable and relied on."

The Kiln Volunteer Fire Department is one of eight in the county. Their importance is not lost on Board of Supervisors President Blaine LaFontaine.

"In Hancock County, we have a very passionate group of volunteers in Hancock County that historically went above and beyond to provide services to these areas and we hope that never changes," he said.

The study included data on number of emergency calls, staff size, rescue vehicles, fire district territory and fiscal budgets. Nothing suggests closing any fire stations.

"What we hope is that this study and some of these recommendations can be a starting point of the conversation about working with volunteers, and trying to implement other measures to provide a better service. Or expand services to benefit the homeowners and residents of the county," LaFontaine added.

He said that conversations with fire chiefs and firefighters will continue throughout the fiscal year. There is no timetable for implementation just yet.

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