Meridian Star

December 31, 2012

Watching and learning

By Brian Livingston /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     A handful of men donned turnout gear at an apartment fire on 28th Avenue in Meridian last Friday afternoon, but they were not allowed to go inside and do any real firefighting.

    The reason behind this is that they weren't real firefighters — yet.

    Meridian Fire Department Chief Anthony Clayton identified some of the men as recruits who have yet to be certified by the state. Clayton said they are not allowed inside a home or to actually fight a fire, both for their safety and that of the real firefighters on the scene.

    "Until they go through basic and become certified all they can do is stand and watch," Clayton said. "It is still a learning experience for them and for many it is a time when they decide to really go through the grueling training it takes to be a firefighter or to move on and do something else."

    Clayton said being a firefighter is not for everyone. He said you either like the work or you hate it. There is no middle ground and from now until the first of the year when about 15 recruits will begin their training at the Meridian / Lauderdale County Public Safety Training Facility located on Sandflat Road, some will decide this career isn't for them.

    "Many of them ask themselves is this what I want to do for the next 30 years," Clayton said. "For some the answer is 'no.'"

    Clayton hopes he can get about a dozen solid firefighters out of the current recruiting class. But he has been in the business long enough to know that is an optimistic figure. Still, even a half dozen would help fill the ranks of the MFD that is about 10 slots short with the retirement of a firefighter here, the movement in rank for another and the odd firefighter who decides he no longer wants to do the job.

    Clayton said the recruits who decide to continue on the career path will have a tough road to negotiate.

    "We will teach them all they can handle at the training facility here and then they have to go to the State Fire Academy in Pearl. That is where they have to convince the state instructors they know what they are doing."

    Even after all that there is still more testing, more trials and tribulations. Maybe by the middle of 2013 the recruits will be able to don the air packs and arm themselves with an ax to enter a burning home to try and save life and property.