Fisher Ferry trucks ready to roll in expanded fire district|[01/05/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 5, 2008

When flames destroyed a home Dec. 8 on Oakwood Drive, some voiced complaints heard nearly every time a fire affects residents in the sprawling Oak Park subdivision, parts of which are located just a mile from the nearest municipal fire station.

Disbelief over why the Vicksburg city fire fighters don’t respond outside the city unless requested by volunteer county departments gave way to acceptance — those who pay taxes for a service receive a service.

Beginning this year, that scenario should include more people as, after more than two years of legal work, the taxing district for the Fisher Ferry Volunteer Fire Department expands to the county’s largest.

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“It became official when the rating bureau called in December,” Warren County Fire Coordinator Kelly Worthy said.

With the added territory, Fisher Ferry becomes the largest fire protection district in Warren County, nearly doubling in size to cover 3,333 homes and businesses over 33.28 square miles southeast of Vicksburg.

It overtakes Culkin, which covers 2,261 structures over 20.7 square miles northeast of the city.

For taxpayers, it amounts to a 2-mill increase on property tax bills next December. In dollar figures, it means about $20 in extra taxes for a $100,000 home.

Warren County Fire Coordinator Kelly Worthy said its satellite station on Lee Road will continue to function as storage space for one of its four trucks and nonessential inventory as the district’s annexation picks up a swath of neighborhoods between the city limits and areas served by the Bovina and Culkin districts. Those subdivisions include Oak Park, Turning Leaf, Littlewood, Mill Creek and Greenbriar, plus several mobile homes in the vicinity.

It will also pick up property between the city limits and Grange Hall Road, including parts of Dana Road.

“The service will be the same as it’s always been, but people will have a drop in their insurance rates,” Worthy said, adding that fire response is dependent on location and manpower.

Worthy said Fisher Ferry units responded in nine minutes to the recent Oakwood Drive fire. Fire supervisors on Culkin units said at the scene their trucks arrived in about five minutes.

Fisher Ferry’s 35 volunteers and support staff will continue primary dispatching out of the Goodrum Road station, with expansion of the Lee Road station possible in the future, assistant chief Bobby Rufus said.

Fisher Ferry and Culkin have experienced improved standings with the state Department of Insurance, both rating an 8. Ratings affect fire insurance premiums and are based on criteria such as water supply, pumping capacity, equipment and personnel.

The Commissioner of Insurance’s Office has estimated rates on fire insurance premiums can go down 42 percent when district ratings improve.

Improvements in other districts are evident, as new trucks arrived within the past year for the LeTourneau and Culkin departments, with one on the way for Bovina.

The State Fire Rebate Insurance program pays back about $10 million in premiums annually to local governments in Mississippi to maintain low-cost fire protection statewide. It is based on a 3-percent tax on all premiums. More than $200 million has been distributed under the program since 1988, when incentives were offered to counties to extend fire protection to all rural areas.