Fire Chief Paul Presley joined the Hattiesburg Fire Department in April 1993 where he became an Engineer in July 2000, promoted Lieutenant in March 2004, and Captain in December 2005. Chief Presley attended Northwest Junior College and the University of Southern Mississippi. He has obtained numerous fire service certifications including 1041 Instructor I & II , 1021 Fire Officer, Smoke Divers, Fire Officer and Hazardous Materials Technician, Managing Company Tactical Operations, NIMS ICS 300 and NIMS ICS 400. He also received a Letter of Commendation in December 1993, Fire Fighter of the Year in May 2004, and a Certificate of Commendation in September 11, 2007. On April 11, 2012, Chief Presley earned an Associates Degree from Columbia Southern University in Fire Science.
The mission of the Hattiesburg Fire Department is to provide fire suppression, rescue, first responder emergency medical response, hazardous materials response, and fire prevention and education services to the citizens of Hattiesburg. The department operates four divisions with over 120 personnel, with ten engine and ladder companies operating from eight stations within the city. The current public fire protection rating for Hattiesburg is Class 4.
The Hattiesburg Fire Department officially became a paid department on April 15, 1904. Led by A.F. Potter, nine men served the City 24 hours a day, seven days a week with little time off. That same day they also put into service a horse-drawn engine with two used horses named Duke and Dexter, purchased from local stock.
From the first station located at City Hall with the engine, a combination hose and ladder wagon and a chief’s buggy, the department expanded with two more stations in 1908 at Arledge Street and W. 5th Street. Hattiesburg purchased its first motorized engine in 1915 (followed by two more in 1917 and 1921, respectively) and became the first department in the state to purchase a motorized ladder truck in 1939. At that time the department had grown by another station on Hardy and Dixie Avenue with twenty-five firemen now serving at four stations on two twenty-four hour shifts.
Today, a little more than a century since its inception, the Hattiesburg Fire Department has grown to eight stations, 118 firefighters, six engines, two aerials and two rescue pumpers. Besides fire suppression, the department also serves the greater Pine Belt region and the state with experienced hazardous materials, rescue and all-hazards teams. But while much has changed sine the department’s “horse and buggy” days, one thing hasn’t – the same spirit of service and courage that inspired those first firefighters in 1904 continues on today with “Hattiesburg’s Bravest.”