DCCI inmates pass state fire exam

Published 7:20 am Friday, March 12, 2010

Seven newly certified firefighters joined the ranks of Decatur County Fire and Rescue this week after Decatur County Correctional Institute Warden Elijah McCoy reported that all seven DCCI inmates selected to participate in the Georgia Department of Corrections’ Inmate Firefighter Program passed the state fire exam on their first attempts.

The seven new firefighters also got to test out their skills the first day on the job on March 4 by handling both a fire call and a vehicle wreck out of the main Fire Station at the Industrial Park.

McCoy said there are plans to send the new firefighters out to volunteer fire stations in the near future after other firefighters receive certification to supervise inmates. Presently, there is a correctional officer at the main station until paid firefighters get certified to supervise inmates

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“This Department of Corrections program is being used with great success in Terrell County, where the only paid firefighter is the chief,” McCoy said. “We’ll soon have four manned stations, in addition to the main station, in the county, providing better coverage for citizens.”

Fire and Rescue Chief Charlie McCann said having inmate firefighters will also help reduce the overtime in his department and reduce the ISO rating for the county, which in turn reduces insurance rates for county residents.

“All of the new firefighters volunteered for this program and have been trained in all of the basics of fighting fire and giving emergency medical care,” said Training Officer Patrick Cofty, who trained the seven inmates for eight weeks prior to their taking the state exam. “I have been training people for four years but have never been prouder of a group than I have of this one. I watched their transformation during the instruction, seen their confidence and self-esteem grow, and they completed this program as a team, with a 100 percent pass rate. I am very proud of them.”

Commission Chairman Earl Perry went out to the main station at the Industrial Park to congratulate the seven men and said they had just gotten back from helping put out a fire.

“I think this is a great program, both for the men and the county,” Perry said. “They have a positive outlook and enthusiasm, and when they leave here, they leave with an important job skill as well.”

Deputy Warden Screen, in charge of security at Decatur County Correctional Institute, said, “Many of our volunteer firefighters work during the day, so we see this as an opportunity to increase coverage in our rural areas. There will be a paid fireman with each inmate firefighter once they go out into the field. A paid fireman and two volunteers will be assigned to the outlying stations and the other inmate fireman will be at the main station.”

A special graduation ceremony will be held for the seven inmate firefighters later this month.