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State Funds Could Help Fire Officials Replace Aging Trucks

State Funds Could Help Fire Officials Replace Aging Trucks
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Oktibbeha County Fire Department
Oktibbeha County Fire Department

Some Mississippi legislators are pushing measures that would offer more funding to volunteer fire departments in rural areas. MPB's Ashley Norwood reports.

Rural fire officials say they are suffering because the state legislature hasn't renewed a grant program to help purchase new fire trucks and provide fire protection. The Rural Fire Truck Acquisition Assistance Program was created in 1995. It hasn't been funded in six years. According to the Department of Insurance, fire departments are continuing to apply for the grants, and applications are continuing to pile up.

Representative Larry Byrd is a Republican from Petal. He authored House Bill 1223 and 1224, two bills to renew and fund the program.

"This used to be just sort of a routine thing, we funded it every year for several years and counties begin to rely on it. Now, some of those trucks are now at the point where they're going to have to be replaced and we don't have the program up and running like it should be. So, it's putting a hardship on counties," said Byrd.

Jennifer Williams is a Fire Chief in Chickasaw County. She says her primary truck is over 20 years old and they can't afford to replace it.

"So the cost has gone up over the years as well. Rural departments just can't afford to pay a quarter of a million for a new engine. If the fire engine's not working properly, then someone's life is at danger. It's how we get there, it's how we put out the fire, it's also our responders. They're the ones driving these older vehicles," said Williams.

Volunteer fire departments in all counties in Mississippi are eligible for the program.