By CARL SMITH
Starkville officials are hopeful recent additions to the fire department’s arsenal will help lower the city’s fire rating and provide insurance breaks to business owners.
Starkville Fire Department recently acquired live-fire, multi-trainer systems housed in two 48-foot-by-8-foot trailers through a U.S. Department of Homeland Safety grant. The grant paid for 90 percent of the equipment’s $318,000, while the remainder was covered by the city of Starkville.
The two new training simulators were brought to Station No. 3 and should be ready for use by May 10.
Besides the new training units, SFD Chief Rodger Mann said his department recently addressed issues involving manpower and aging equipment. Addressing these issues, he said, could play a major role in possibly lowering Starkville’s fire rating from a Class 5 designation to a Class 4. Officials from the Mississippi Fire Ratings Bureau are due to reassess Starkville sometime in May or June, he said.
“These (simulators) are going to play a huge part in the rating. While they don’t give us a traditional training facility per say, it gives us the ability. Training ability is definitely looked at in the rating process,” Mann said.
Starkville is currently rated at a low Class 5 designation, Mann said, and a lower rating would provide great insurance benefits to local business owners.
“We won’t know how these (simulators) will specifically help (with the final rating) until the bureau makes its final decision, but we’re hopeful,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of work since the last time we were evaluated.”
SFD Training Officer Charles Yarbrough said local firefighters will be able to practice a number of fire simulations, including confined rescues and structure ventilations. The fire department could add on additional units to the sides and on top of the trailers due to the units design.
“Usually the only times we get to practice, we’re doing it for real,” Yarbrough said. “These units provide experience you can’t easily get.”
Having the two simulators allows the city to train its firefighters locally instead of sending them to the state fire academy in Clinton. Fire training classes in Clinton can cost up to $1,000, a figure which does not account for food, lodging and the loss of local manpower, Mann said.
“(The facilities) allow us to train our own guys on our time frame and allow us the ability to train everybody in the same way at one time,” he said. “They’re going to aid in keeping our guys sharp with the newest techniques.”
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman toured the training units Monday and said he is also hopeful for an improved city fire rating.
“We were very fortunate to receive a grant that will allow us to provide state-of-the-art training for our firefighters,” he said. “This facility, in addition to enhancing the skill development of our firefighters, will also help us significantly as we pursue lowering our fire rating.”
The city could provide training time for county volunteer firefighters as well, Mann said, but Oktibbeha County Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said his departments have no official plans as of yet.