First pro to join volunteer smoke-eaters

For the first time in history, Lamar County will have a full-time paid firefighter on duty, thanks to a Homeland Security staffing grant. Supervisors made that announcement at Monday's board meeting.

Over the next five years, the $88,000 grant — along with $100,000 from the county — will fund one full-time firefighter position for the Central Lamar Fire District, which covers highly populated residential areas of districts 4 and 5.

Officials hope the new position will not only improve fire ratings and lower insurance premiums, but also take a load off some 160 volunteer firefighters in the county's 11 fire districts.

"I think it's our first step to hopefully having other locations in the county that will also have full-time people located there," says Fred Hatten, supervisors president. "Some of the areas that have a 9 or a 10 fire rating, hopefully this will go a long ways in bringing those ratings down to a more acceptable level."

Six volunteer fire departments, including Central Lamar, applied for the grant. Two are still under consideration by Homeland Security.