Oak Grove Fire Department celebrates rating, new truck

By BUSTER WOLFE,

The Oak Grove Fire Department celebrated two big events Tuesday night at Station No. 1 on Old Hwy. 24 across from the middle school.

Recently, Oak Grove was one of three Lamar County fire protection districts that improved its state rating from a Class 8 to a Class 7. The move means lower insurance rates for homeowners in the Oak Grove district.

And Fire Chief Patrick Kelly and his squad took delivery on a new $425,000 firetruck and firefighters began training on it.

More importantly, the fire protection district had saved to buy the truck and it was delivered with no debt to the department.

“Several years ago, we saw the future need to replace the 1995 pumper,” Chief Kelly said. “With our Board of Commissioners for District 4, we came up with an incremental savings plan to put money aside to pay for the truck. When the truck delivered today, we were able to write them a check free and clear with no financing. The department has zero debt; we even built this station with contract labor and with firefighters’ help.”

Kelly said the 3,400-square-foot station got a lot of help from the people who now work in it.

“All this was done with no financing whatsoever,” he said. “That’s a big testament to the stewardship of our board and our department by watching our finances and being able to write the check for the truck. When we wrote the check, they handed us the title. That doesn’t happen very often.”

The Oak Grove Fire Department, which was founded in 1976, is the second oldest fire station in Lamar County behind Purvis.

“But we were the first non-municipal unit in the county,” Kelly said, noting that the department had 905 service calls in the past 12 months. “Right now, we’re averaging about 27 active members on staff. We do have a staff firefighter. We have one guy that’s paid to staff the fire station from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. so that we have a full-time firefighter. That allows us to get a truck on the scene and start before anybody gets there. That works pretty well.”

Oak Grove has 44 square miles of coverage in the district, Kelly said.

“This station is located at the top of our territory and we have a second station on Okahola School Road,” he said. “As of the 2010 census, we have a population right at 10,863, so that makes us the largest district of residents in the county. I’m sure that number has gone up to about 12,000-12,500 since then.”

The new truck will be replacing the 1995 pumper, the oldest truck in the station that will be placed on reserve status. The last new truck was bought in 2009.

Station 1 will now consist of the new squad truck, an engine truck, rescue truck and a tanker. Station 2 at Okahola will have an engine truck, tanker and rescutruck.

Kelly said the reduction in fire protection rating is because of different things related to the district.

“It’s a combination of everything and a lot of hard work on the guys,” he said. “It all goes back to the 25 people I have on the roster. Training is a big part of it. It’s a lot of time out of their days for training. It’s training and a lot of time out on their calls. It’s a testament to the guys who are here tonight (to train on the new firetruck) because nobody is being paid to be here.

“Another thing that help us improve our class rating is we have resident firefighters. That’s kind of over and above what we usually have. Having someone at Station 2 gets a truck out the door.”

The truck hold 1,000 gallons of water and has an onboard foam system. A crew of four rides in the truck, which was bought from Ferrara Fire Apparatus of Holden, Louisiana.