Starkville hosts Fire Chiefs Conference for first time

From left: Curtis Gho and Stacy Lane of SunbeltFire explain their products to Ellisville Fire Chief Ronnie McGilberry during the 81st Mississippi Fire Chiefs Midwinter Conference at the Hilton Garden Inn on Wednesday. (Photo by Logan Kirkland, SDN.)
Staff Writer

The Starkville Fire Department is currently playing host to the 81st Mississippi Fire Chiefs Midwinter Conference for the first time at the Hilton Garden Inn.

The two-day conference will feature a plethora of fire chiefs from all over the state and vendors from across the country. The event kicked off on Wednesday beginning with breakfast and opening ceremonies.

"This is a good opportunity for everybody to get together at one place, at one time and talk," Starkville Fire Chief Charles Yarbrough said.

Yarbrough said the conference is helpful for every department because if one department is having issues, another department can step in and explain how they handled a particular situation.

Throughout the conference, there are presentations and speakers to help provide techniques and perspectives beneficial to those attending.

In addition to the speakers, Yarbrough said networking is the most important benefit of the conference. For Yarbrough, he said he learned about the history of the fire service and talked about looking into a chaplain program for SFD.

"We are going to look into getting chaplains at the fire department because there is so much going on with stress and critical stress," Yarbrough said. "That's probably the biggest thing I learned today so far."

Yarbrough said having vendors all in one place to showcase new equipment is constructive for the departments to update their equipment to better serve the people in their towns.

"They have the latest and greatest innovations," Yarbrough said. "We get a chance to see what's out there."

Meridian Fire Chief Anthony Clayton said he has been a part of the fire service for 35 years and the ability to discuss plans and proactive approaches to scenarios is the most useful part of the conference.

Clayton said regardless of department size, many of the conversations with other chiefs provides useful insight.

"Just because you're a smaller city, doesn't make you less important," Clayton said. "There's stuff that they are doing up here that might benefit Meridian."

The conference will conclude on Thursday with a presentation from the former Oakland, California fire chief Teresa Deloach Reed.

Thursday will feature a panel discussion titled “The U.S. Fire Service Prepares for 2020,” along with events promoting firefighter fitness and nutrition, fire service higher education and a pub crawl from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.