“If there is an emergency in the city of Enterprise, chances are very good that a red fire truck will be among the first to the scene.
“That’s just in all honesty,” Enterprise Fire Chief Byron Herring will tell you with a smile.
Herring, who has been firefighting for more than 45 years, has served as Enterprise Fire Chief since 1995. He’s seen a lot of changes over the years, Herring said. One of the best is the relocation in August of the central fire station from city hall downtown to the former Action Buick GMC Car Dealership on the south side of town.
“When city hall was getting overcrowded and they were talking about moving some departments out, I raised both hands,” Herring said. “They didn’t have to twist our arms to get us to move.
“The taxpayers definitely got their money out of this, by all means,” Herring said about the recent move to the 17,361 square foot building that houses the administrative offices, a training room and living quarters for on-duty firefighters. “We would have never been able to get anything like this if we had had to start from scratch.
“I wouldn’t even want to put a dollar figure on what it would have cost to get us this amount of space right here,” Herring said about the five-acre complex. “Sure, it’s not a brand new building but we’ve got a lot of room to add on to it if we need to.”
In addition to saving taxpayer dollars, the move also helped the city achieve the recent improved Insurance Service Office rating from a Class 3 to a Class 2.
The ISO rating scale goes from a Class 1 to a Class 10. Class 1 represents exemplary public protection and a Class 10 indicates that the area’s fire-suppression program doesn’t meet minimum criteria.
In 1983, Enterprise went to a Class 5 rating. In 2002, Enterprise attained a Class 3 rating and it remained a Class 3 status through the 2012 rating.
“But the city was graded in November 2017 and the city received official notification that they have boosted to a Class 2 rating,” Herring said. “This can to help improve our insurance rates.”
“The central fire station move helped the ISO rating because we have four fire stations and when (ISO raters) are assessing station deployment, they take every station that you have and go a mile and a half around it and then come up with a percentage of coverage area that you have,” Herring explained. “When the station was downtown some of that area overlapped.
“Now we have stations located on the north, south, east and west sides of town,” Herring said. “It cuts down on our response time rapidly and it helped increase our ISO rating.”
The EFD has a staff of 50. In addition to Herring and his administrative assistant Kelli Curtis, there are 36 firefighters working 24-hours on duty and 48-hours off. There are nine lieutenants and three captains, one who serves part time as training coordinator. There are 16 firefighters on each shift divided between the four fire stations.
“When there are promotions, sometimes they will have to change shifts,” Herring said. “But we try not to split them up if they are working together really well.
“You’ve got to remember that firefighters spend more time face-to-face with each other than they do their families,” Herring said. “When they come in on duty, there are not many moments when they can’t see where that other person on their shift is.
“Every firefighter on duty has a bunk,” Herring said. “But when they come in, the chances of them sleeping all night without being disturbed is slim to none.”
The new central fire station includes a state of the art training room, Herring said, crediting city of Enterprise Communications Director Jason Wright with the training room technology.
The EFD recently held their first statewide certification course in the new training room with 17 firefighters from Enterprise, Dothan, Fort Rucker, Daleville and Eufaula. “I am extremely proud of Capt. Chris Davis and Capt. Bryan Turner,” Herring said. “They taught the course and we had 100 pass ratio. We were very pleased with that.”
Herring said that in addition to the “gigantic” parking lot, the facility also has enough living facilities to host emergency first responders in the event of a large scale emergency.
The parking lot will serve in other ways, Herring said. “Now we have room to set up a driving course for our fire fighters to go through once a year,” he said. “One day I hope to see a burn building and a drill tower out here on the back side of the building.”
Included in the building is a kitchen area that is home to a 12-foot dining table that the firefighters handcrafted. Pieces of the wood table include a fire ladder, old fire hoses and the department emblem. “Firefighters do some cooking in the kitchen but not as much as we did years ago, because in all honesty we don’t have time to do it,” Herring said.
The day room is equipped with a television and lounge chairs. “These guys are here for 24 hours. That means Christmas Eve, Christmas Day,” Herring said. “But they know well in advance when they are going to be ‘up’ for the holidays.”
Herring said that when he had Christmas duty when his children were younger, he and his wife would ask Santa to come to their home Christmas Eve. “He worked with us on that,” he recalled with a smile.
There is a gym and work out area at the back of the station. The equipment was for the most part donated and is well used by the firefighters, Herring said.
The new facility also hosts a computer bay where the firefighters file reports with the state and National Fire Incidental Reporting System. “In order to be eligible for grants, we have to file reports every time that a truck goes on a 911 call,” Herring said. “An incident report is filed every time.”
There is also an incident pre-plan area which enables the firefighters to be equipped with the most current information about the location they are responding to. “Years ago when I started we actually had a blank map test and we had to test to see how many city streets we had memorized,” Herring recalled.
“We average over nine calls per day. Sometimes it goes up to 12 or 14,” Herring said. “When Chief (Billy Joe) Watson retired in 1994 we were averaging about .65 calls a day.”
Part of the reason for the increased call numbers is that the fire department has gone on emergency medical service calls since 1995. “My shift was the first one to go through the emergency medical service training,” Herring said. “Now if you have an emergency in this city, chances of a big red truck showing up are very good.”
Since 1995 every firefighter is trained in basic emergency medical procedures, Herring said. “We don’t require our firefighters to be paramedics, but several are.”
“It is vitally needed on this side of town,” Herring said about the relocation of the ladder truck from the eastside station to central fire station. “A lot of people think of a ladder truck being used only on tall buildings and it’s not,” he explained. “If a strip mall or apartment building starts on fire you can go up over the building to extinguish it.”
Herring can be seen at most fire scenes fully dressed in his turnout gear. “It’s not that I don’t trust my guys,” he is quick to point out. “We’ve got some great people who do a super job.
“I feel like the people we serve might want to see the fire chief there,” Herring said. “And when the Red Cross or insurance companies need information, it’s hard to give them good information if you didn’t set foot on the site.
“I remember coming to town as a little boy when they had the two old red fire trucks down at city hall,” Herring said about the former city hall that was located on Main Street in what is now the Yancey Parker Building. “When that siren went off, you’d see a lot of people who were volunteer firefighters coming out of the stores and hop on the truck as it drove down the street.”
A lot has changed, Herring said, stressing that commitment to the community has not changed.
“We certainly want to help people anyway we can,” he said. “We call that customer service.”