Costly improvements to Paris Fire Department are needed, chief tells council

Fire Chief Larry Wright

Fire Chief Larry Wright

Fire Chief Larry Wright, who has now been at the helm for 13 months, presented to the Paris City Council on Monday his assessment of the needs of the Paris Fire Department.

He thanked the council for buying a new fire engine last summer, but said the city has basically gone a number of years before then without new trucks “and they’re all wearing out at the same time.”

He said the city at some point needs to reopen the fire station on Pine Mill Road in east Paris that was shut down several years ago. Wright said response times to much of east Paris is not fast enough, “and with the growth going on, it concerns me.”

Wright said more firefighters will be needed to do that. Wright said another big problem is the exodus of good, qualified firefighters because the pay and advancement possibilities are not on a par with other departments in the region. “We have a young, inexperienced firefighting force.”

Regarding several suspicious fires recently to vacant houses, Wright noted that his department now is in charge of code enforcement and will be able to more efficiently address deliberately-set fires. The city will acquire an arson dog in September, he said.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

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Charles Richards Charles Richards moved to Paris in 2004 after retiring from a 40-year career in journalism – the last 26 years as a news writer and sports writer with The Associated Press in Dallas and Washington, D.C. In mid-2004, The Paris News coaxed him out of retirement, and he began covering the police, court and regional beat for The Paris News. Then in early 2005, he was switched to coverage of a sharply divided Paris City Council. He was appointed by the City Council in 2006 to the 12-member City Charter Review Commission, which extensively rewrote the outmoded document. His writing awards include two first-place awards in statewide competition for feature writing. The most recent was his 2005 story on a Paris doctor’s startling use of leeches in a successful attempt to re-attach a man’s severed ear. Over his career, Richards’ interview subjects include Alabama Gov. George Wallace, President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, David Koresh, Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali and numerous other political and sports figures. He is an alumnus of Texas Tech, where he was editor of the school newspaper. He lives in Paris with his wife, Barbara, who is retired after 30 years as a teacher and high school counselor.