Grant helps small town fire department - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Grant helps small town fire department

January 31, 2006

Quitman -- A federal grant is creating new jobs and enhancing public safety in one South Georgia town. Quitman firefighters are overworked and understaffed, but money from the Department of Homeland Security is bringing them some much needed relief.

There's a lot that goes into firefighting. "Drive the truck, pump the truck, fight fires," said Rusty Cross, firefighter.

But the Quitman Fire Department doesn't have enough manpower to do it all. "We're allowing firefighters to work overtime, and also we're allowing guys to work part-time," said Fire Chief Clay Phillips.

The department needs 16 full-time firefighters to cover the whole county, and they currently only have 12.

There's a long list of people waiting to help. "We probably have 16 applications," said Phillips. But the department doesn't have enough money to pay them. It's a problem that could compromise public safety, but now, there's a solution.

"As soon as the money goes through the bank, I'm going out and recruiting," said Phillips. A $194,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will allow Chief Phillips to hire four new firefighters.

One person will be added to each of the department's three shifts. "One person makes a big difference," said Phillips.

And the fourth will be used as a firefighting educator. "The training officer will be able to educate not only our city firefighters, but also our county firefighters and volunteers," said Phillips.

Not only will the money help enhance public safety, it will also result in savings for homeowners. The city currently has an ISO rating of 6, but with the extra manpower, "Our goal is to reach a class four," said Phillips.

Chief Phillips hopes to have the new firefighters on board in about a month. The grant project was spearheaded by Chief Clay Phillips, who recently came to the Quitman Fire Department after serving as fire Marshall in Thomasville.

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