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|Fire rating study expected in late July|
The study by ULM researchers on how the Ouachita Parish Fire Department can improve its fire rating should be completed by the end of July.
In March, the police jury agreed to have ULM's Social Science Research laboratory conduct a study to determine what the parish fire department could do to improve to a class 4 rating or better.
The parish fire department currently has a class 5 rating.
The department's class rating determines how much parish property owners pay for homeowner's insurance. The highest rating, or best rating, is a class 1. The Property Insurance Association of Louisiana determines the rating for each fire department in the state.
The police jury paid $17,500 for the ULM study.
The study also was supported by the fire department's advisory committee.
Wade Bishop, the advisory committee's chairman, said previously that the study would detail where people live now compared to where the parish thought people would live when the current fire stations were built. The study also will determine how much it will cost to build new stations.
In a related matter, Pat Hemphill, chief of the parish fire department, said the 11 new firefighters hired in January to help keep the parish's fire stations open will be ready to ride fire trucks beginning Monday.
The fire department will hold a graduation ceremony and swear in the new firefighters Thursday, July 10.
Hemphill said that after seven months of training, the new firefighters are itching for real action.
They have been in controlled training, and they all have to meet additional driving requirements before they are able to man the fire trucks, Hemphill said.
He said he's proud of the rookies, and believes they will make great firefighters.
In December, the police jury allocated $300,000 for overtime pay in 2008 to keep all parish fire departments open while the new firefighters were trained.
"It's easier to pay these guys, than to pay overtime," Hemphill said.
The issue of rural fire stations being closed on a rotating basis was a hot topic last summer, especially for police juror Mack Calhoun, who had two of these rural stations in his district closed for periods of time.
While Hemphill said the addition of these new firefighters won't bring the department's numbers up to what it had several years ago, the department will be able to keep all stations opened with the new recruits.