Tupelo named state Fire Department of the Year

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Tupelo Fire Department has been named Fire Department of the Year by the Mississippi Firefighters Memorial Burn Association.
Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and Fire Chief Thomas Walker made the announcement Friday.
Walker cited the department’s response to 2,680 calls, fire rating reduction from a Level 5 to Level 4, smoke detectors for hearing impaired and three medical saves last year as reasons why the department received the honor.
“I told the guys down there, I’m just accepting the award on behalf of the firefighters in Tupelo because they won the award, and it’s been an honor to be their chief,” Walker said.
The medical saves involve firefighters responding to life-threatening situations like shortness of breath, uncontrolled bleeding or a vehicle accident.
“We responded to three separate calls where a person was having a heart attack, and they were already doing CPR,” Walker said. “We got on the scene, we hooked them to an AED, gave them CPR and delivered shocks and brought them back to life.”
Reed was especially proud of the medical saves.
“These were three people who were basically deceased, and our fire department basically brought them back to life,” he said. “If that’s not an advantage to living in Tupelo, I don’t know what is.”
Walker said the department responds to medical emergencies because its seven fire stations provide the ability to reach any location in the city within three minutes.
This is the third year the Mississippi Firefighters Memorial Burn Association has given out the Mississippi Fire Department of the Year award.
Community members around the state nominate departments for going above and beyond in their service, and a committee then selects the winner based on the nominations.
Battalion Chief Bill Wardlaw said the fire rating reduction from a Level 5 to a Level 4 is one of last year’s biggest achievements.
“We’ve been working on the insurance rating since I got here 19 years ago, there hasn’t been a drop since ’72,” he said. “That’s a huge cost savings to residential, as well as commercial fire insurance.”
Wardlaw also was proud of installing smoke detectors for deaf residents.
“If someone is deaf, you can’t hear the beep beep beep, so it makes a light flash,” Wardlaw said “That’s a big deal, we’re proud of that. We install them if they can’t do it themselves.”
jb.clark@journalinc.com