‘A proud tradition’
The Biloxi Fire Department was founded in 1889 as a volunteer fire department. In 1909, the Department began to include some paid firefighters, and by 1952, the Department was fully paid and operated out of four firehouses.
Today the department is manned by about 150 line firefighters assigned to nine stations throughout the city. Its fire apparatus consists of nine engine companies, three ladder companies, one heavy rescue, one hazardous materials (HAZ-MAT) unit and one fireboat. The Department responds to between 7,500 and 8,000 calls annually, most of which are medical emergencies. As such, all Biloxi firefighters are trained to at least the first responder level of EMS. Some members of the department are also part of State Technical Advance Rescue (STAR) Team 3, a technical rescue team controlled by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. The average response time for the department is between three and five minutes.
According to Biloxi Fire Chief Joe Boney, the department’s most important asset is its firefighters.
“The guys are are the primary asset of this department,” said Boney, a 31-year veteran firefighter who is entering his second year as chief. “We must take care of them and protect them so that they can provide the best professional service that they can.”
Training is important, and keeping the entire department current on training and certifications is a constant challenge. All recruits go through an eight-week course at the Mississippi State Fire Academy in order to become nationally certified firefighters. Other training is conducted on an almost daily basis to keep up with the evolution and advancement of firefighting. Physical fitness is also paramount, and all Biloxi Firefighters are required to perform an hour of physical training per 24-hour shift. In addition, all chief officers attend training at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md.
Chief Boney is grateful for the community’s support as well.
“We get great support from the city,” he said. “We try to help the citizens with their emergencies, and we look to them for the support we need to provide services.”
The Fire Department is involved in community outreach on many fronts including fundraising for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, sponsoring Mississippi Burn Camp participants, collecting money for The Salvation Army, assisting The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies with retreiving stricken sea turtles and running Fire Academy for Kids, an annual summer camp for children aged six to 12.
In addition to this outreach, the City of Biloxi has partnered with the department on the Biloxi Fire Museum. The museum is operated by voluinteers and is located in a 1937 firehouse at 1046 Howard Ave. On display are several items important to the history of the Biloxi Fire Department. The museum is open 9 a.m., to 3 p.m., on Saturdays or by appointment.
The Fire Department is in the Lopez-Quave Public Safety Center at 170 Porter Ave., and can be reached for non-emergency purposes at 228-435-6200. In any emergency, fire or otherwise, dial 911.
–Charlie Benton, Public Affairs Intern, 7/2015