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Paris fire chief Larry Wright is taking a step this week toward increasing the number of minority firefighters in the department.
Among the items before the Civil Service Commission at its annual meeting on Wednesday is Wright’s recommendation to remove the requirement that Paris firefighters live within 30 minutes of the town square.
The Civil Service Commission will meet at 3:30 p.m.in the first-floor conference room of City Hall, 135 SE 1st St.
In a mid-December interview with eParisExtra, Wright targeted that rule as one of his first targets in trying to improve the department.
“That’s a rule established years ago, I guess right after the big tornado, that required firefighters to live within 30 minutes of the town square. That’s a stumbling block. It limits your ability to recruit,” Wright said.
“You know, firemen work 24 hours on, 48 hours off, so it’s nothing for them to drive 50 or 75 miles to work, because they only do it one day out of three. With this rule, if we recruit a firefighter from Sherman-Denison area, they’d have to move over here, and the money we pay a beginning firefighter, a lot of times it’s not incentive to move over here,” he said.
There is a reason for the rule, agreed Wright, who is in his second month as the city’s fire chief, following Ronnie Grooms’ retirement.
“If you have a big fire, you want to be able to call extra help in and for them to respond quickly,” Wright said.
But he noted that he is also pushing mutual aid agreements with the county’s voluntary fire departments and even other cities.
That will ensure than the Paris Fire Department has more people involved, should the city be visited by a crisis that requires lots of emergency personnel in a hurry.
“I think there are enough firefighters and police officers that live in this area, and with mutual aid like I was talking about, we could afford to drop that rule,” Wright said.
Just about every other fire department has dropped that rule, but it remains on the books in Paris.
“IIf I can get that rule changed, I’m going to try to have some brochures made up and do some kind of recruiting spin out around Kilgore, Sulphur Springs, and probably in the edge of the Metroplex to see if we can draw some people in here – including blacks, Hispanics and females — to test. They’re out there; you’ve just got to go look for them,” Wright said.
By CHARLES RICHARDS