The McComb Fire Department is close to a full staff after the city board voted unanimously to hire four new firefighters in last week’s city board meeting.
Fire Chief Gary McKenzie said the department is at 41 filled positions out of the 42-position capacity the city has budgeted, with three shifts of 13 firefighters at any given moment.
“We still have one vacancy left to fill, and hopefully, we can work on that soon,” he said. “We are not quite out of the woods, but it will certainly help. We are making progress.”
Jesse Armstrong, Jason Nation, Jesse Peavy and Jakur Franklin, who all worked as volunteer firefighters, were hired by the McComb city board in a 5-0 vote last Tuesday. Selectmen Ronnie Brock, Michael Cameron, Devante Johnson, Ted Tullos and Shawn Williams voted for the hires, while Selectman Donovan Hill was absent.
The next step for the four new hires is to get certified by the State Fire Academy, which McKenzie said could take some time.
“A lot of it depends on how the schedule is running at the state fire training academy, and of course, the pandemic is messing everything up, so they are limiting things,” McKenzie said, noting that the academy is limiting the number of incoming firefighters at each training and enforcing strict guidelines.
To combat this, the department built a training facility of its own.
“They can’t train as many as they normally do, so we are hoping we will be able to do more of the training for these guys in-house, he said. “It can take up to a year by the time we hire somebody for them to be certified, and we are hoping to at least cut that in half.”
The facility still is not complete, but it is in operations, McKenzie said.
“In 2004, when I joined the department, someone had to retire or die for there to be an opening in the McComb Fire Department, but now the turnover rate is much, much higher than we would like,” he said. “In my almost four years as chief, I have hired two dozen firefighters.”