Hatley Volunteer Fire Department
HATLEY, Miss. -- The Hatley Volunteer Fire Department was strapped for money, and their firefighters were using unreliable brush firefighting equipment and outdated breathing apparatus and protective turnout gear. They sought and received the help they needed from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant.
The Hatley Volunteer Fire Department protects a population of about 4,000 in Monroe County in northeastern Mississippi. Its primary coverage area is 48 square miles of mostly woodlands and farmland. The Department also provides mutual aid to eight volunteer fire departments and two professional fire departments that serve in rural Monroe County. Brush fires, vehicle accidents, and medical calls represent the majority of the 150 to 200 calls the department receives each year.
Although it is a rural area, the county's critical infrastructure includes two county airports, highways, railways, dams, an electrical substation, six chemical plants, and a Mississippi Valley Gas Company distribution well.
Little funding support is available from the local government.
"The volunteers make a huge sacrifice in their lives to run the department," said Assistant Chief Matt Hannon. With a 2003 Assistance to Firefighters grant, the Hatley Department purchased breathing apparatuses and personal protective equipment for its firefighters.
The grant funds could not have come too soon. Their existing turnout gear was 15 years old, explained Hannon, and the newest self-contained breathing apparatus device in use was nine years old.
"The old SCBAs were beginning to leak and could not sustain air pressure," he said. "They also did not have integrated PASS devices, which also compromised the firefighters' safety."
In structure fires, the firefighters complained about the extreme heat they experienced using the old turnout gear. With their AFG grant, the department was able to purchase 20 sets of turnout gear and five SCBAs.
Another part of the AFG grant supported the purchase of equipment to outfit a five-ton, off-road, heavy brush truck that the Mississippi Forestry Commission donated to the Department. Assistant Chief Hannon says the grant enabled them to purchase all the equipment they needed to build an advanced brush response vehicle.
Working on their own, the firefighters installed the new equipment, which included a new high-pressure pump, new hose and automatic hose reel, new front remote control monitor and manual deck monitor, and fittings and adapters.
Just one month after they finished outfitting the truck, an incident occurred that showed just how useful the vehicle would become.
"A grass fire started near a popular restaurant in our area, which was occupied at the time," said Hannon. "The terrain was harsh and not reachable with a standard pumper truck. The heavy brush truck allowed us to extinguish the fire in minutes and protect the property of the restaurant. Without the brush truck, the restaurant and its occupants could have been in extreme danger very quickly.
"The AFG grant allowed us to outfit the brush truck with the most modern tools available and enabled us to provide a greater level of service for our community," said Hannon. "With the benefit of this grant, our Department can provide excellent fire protection, especially for off-road woodland and grass fires, something not even many paid fire departments can do."
In September, Hurricane Katrina's high winds cut electrical power to Hatley Township and the surrounding area for several days, and downing many trees. With the brush truck, the department pulled trees out of roadways so that traffic could resume. After the hurricane, two members of the department volunteered to go to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to help search for and rescue survivors, taking their grant-funded turnout gear for protection.
What They Bought With The Grant:
- Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)
- Personal protective equipment
- Equipment for outfitting a heavy brush truck