Fire training tower could begin going up in about two weeks

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 4, 2001

[05/04/01] Construction on a training tower that the city’s fire chief says could lower Vicksburg’s fire rating and move property owners closer to lower premiums is set to begin in about two weeks.

Materials to build the tower have been ordered, and construction should be completed by the end of the summer, Vicksburg Fire Chief Kevin Westbrook said.

Westbrook said he and Johnny Puckett, head of city building maintenance, visited Natchez to view a training tower there.

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“It really gave us an idea of what we are wanting to do here,” Westbrook said.

The tower, which will be built next to Station No. 9 on North Washington Street in Kings, has been in the works for about seven months.

The tower will be used to train recruits before they go to the State Fire Academy. Its uses will include training in dragging hoses, rappelling off the building and climbing ladders.

Its completion is a step the city must take before the Mississippi State Rating Bureau will consider changing the city’s rating.

The city has had a fire rating of 5 on a scale of 1 to 10 since 1965. The rating is used by some insurance companies to set premiums.

The tower, Westbrook said, will help the city reach the better 4 rating, which could lower rates for industry but not residential customers.

“We would have to reach a 2 for residential customers to see any change,” he said.

The completion of Memorial Firehouse Station No. 2 on Indiana Avenue, the city’s seventh, is one step the city has taken. Other steps include adding more firefighters, maintaining records on hose tests and service tests on pumpers. The department has 115 firefighters.

Even though the 4 rating would not change prices for residential customers, the city would still benefit by the change, Westbrook said. “Industry will look at the lower rate, and that could be a deciding factor in them coming here, which brings jobs and more money into the community.”

Since the tower is a simple structure, it can also be expanded by other city chiefs over the years, Westbrook said.

“Classrooms could be added or maybe even meeting rooms,” he said.