State fire trainers gather to learn best techniques

By Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – In a state with one of the worst fire death rates in the nation, Mississippi firefighters are always looking for better ways to save lives during fires.

Training officers and chiefs from fire departments throughout the state gathered in Tupelo on Tuesday and Wednesday to share best practices on how to train firefighters back at their home departments.

Nearly 100 firefighters learned from each other at Tupelo’s BancorpSouth Conference Center, sharing best information on training.

Stephen Ashby, an advanced instructor at the Mississippi State Fire Academy, said fire training leaders in the state have met annually for four years, allowing them to learn about training and safety without having to pay the expenses of a national conference.

“The whole reason we do this is to make Mississippi a safer place,” Ashby said.

In 2010, the most recent year with data available, Mississippi ranks fourth highest in the nation with 25.3 fire deaths per million people, according to U.S. Fire Administration information. Mississippians are also more than twice as likely to die in a fire compared to the risk for the entire country, placing the state third in the nation for risk behind West Virginia and Alabama.

Sponsored by the state Fire Academy and the University of Mississippi, the conference was hosted by the Tupelo Fire Department and the Tupelo Regional Airport Fire Department.

Tupelo Regional Airport Fire Chief Norris Robbins presented a program to the group about training first responders for plane crashes. He said nearly all fire departments in the state have the possibility of dealing with a plane crash, no matter their proximity to an airport.

“Many firemen don’t know how to handle a plane crashing down,” Robbins said. “This is also a refresher for those who do.”

robbie.ward@journalinc.com