Nine New Firefighters Join Biloxi Department

The Biloxi Fire Department will soon have more firefighting power on its side.

On Monday, nine new recruits were honored at a graduation ceremony. In just a few days, they'll take all their training to their new posts with the Fire Department.

"This is the first rookie class we've had since the storm, and also the first one we've trained locally," said Biloxi Fire Chief David Roberts.

Since the storm, more than two dozen firemen have left the Biloxi Fire Department. The fire department was put on a hiring freeze right after the storm. The freeze was lifted in October of last year.

"We've been getting by until this point. This should bolster our man power to pre-Katrina strengths," Chief Roberts said.

Tim Hendricks left the Biloxi police force to join the fire department.

"It's a similar job, yet it's worlds away. I've always wondered. I've had a lot of friends in the fire department, prior to taking a job with the fire department. And I have a new understanding and respect, going through the training now for what they do, and now for what I'm trained to to," Hendricks said.

South Mississippi native Rodney Strickler moved back from a nine-year stint in Colorado to join the Biloxi Fire Department.

"It's been a long process. It took me two years to get hired on. Some of the guys--it took them longer with the storm and everything," Rodney said.

Rodney's brother, Steven, is a captain with the Biloxi Fire Department. Rodney hopes to follow in his brother's footsteps, but also hopes to leave a mark of his own.

"Firefighting is something that's been in the back of my mind, with my brother, and everything, seeing him come home, hearing his stories. My only regret in life right now is that I didn't start earlier. I should have started a while back," Rodney said.

The recruits underwent more than 751 hours of training. Chief Roberts says since the storm, there have been fewer fires, but more emergency calls to the department.