Steve Moore Assistant Fire Coordinator for Harrison County Fire Service

DSC_4761We see them every day as we live out or lives in relative peace never thinking that a day may come when we will need them in our time of crisis. They are men and women we pass on the street, quietly going about their daily routine as we barely notice. They are the ones we call “hero” when they come to our rescue. They are young, old, often burley and bold. Some are our neighbors and friends and some are strangers whose compassion knows no end.
The firefighters of Harrison County Fire Service fit this description but are quick to be humble when put on a pedestal. The Assistant Fire Chief for Harrison County, Steve Moore is just such a man whose career of service to his community spans nearly 40 years.
In 1973, Steve became a volunteer cadet with the Fort Bayou Fire Department and stayed there for a little over a year before signing on full time with the Biloxi Fire Department in January of 1975. Steve saw 20 years of service with the BFD before he retired as the Fire Chief in 1995. He had held the Fire Chief position for 4 years.
Still young and full of life, Steve didn’t believe retirement meant he had to go home and sit in a rocker or fish all day. His idea worked much better with his energy level. He became a full time instructor at the Mississippi Fire Academy in Pearl, MS. He had served as an Associate Instructor in the early 1980’s and liked it so much that he returned.
After some time, the veteran firefighter got out of the field and went to work for Ball Heating and Air as a technician and also tried his hand in wholesale air-conditioning and plumbing sales. There was a little voice always on his shoulder whispering.
So, in 2009 Steve returned to the job he loved most, being a firefighter. Not a Chief, not a supervisor and not a manager but a simple, humble, hard working firefighter for the Harrison County Fire Service. He also went back to the EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) class for the second time in his career. When he took his first EMT class years before in 1977, he was part of only the second class ever given for EMT’s on the coast.
The fire service in the latter part of the 70’s was really pushing to have qualified EMT’s in the area partly because of the television show EMERGENCY! Since those early days, Steve has met actor Randolph Mantooth, who played sexy EMT Johnny Gage, alongside the more subdued Kevin Tighe who played Roy Desoto in the series. Steve even has a personally autographed photo of the pair in his office (In homage to history and the beginning of his lengthy career).
It was only right that Steve Moore would become a firefighter. It was his father’s profession and watching his dad spurred him on to accomplish more and more in his service to his community.
“At one time, my dad, James Moore, was Fire Chief at Keesler Air Force Base while I was the Fire Chief in Biloxi. That was a neat time for us,” Steve said.
When I asked him about his boss, Fire Chief, Pat Sullivan, he smiled and leaned back in his chair as if he were going to tell a story. “Pat and I grew up together and went to Anniston Elementary together. When we both first started out in this field, he was at the Gulfport Fire Department while I was a firefighter in Biloxi. We’ve been friends and colleagues for a lot of years.”
We discussed the 6 Fire Districts that make up the territory covered by the Harrison County Fire Service. More than 400 square miles and 14 fire stations fall under his daily supervision. He is quick to point out the fact that the team for the HCFS is made up of a handful of paid firefighters, an administrative assistant and, on average, 140 volunteers that come from all walks of life. “These volunteers are all ages, shapes and sizes with different backgrounds and talents. We can always find a place for one willing to serve. We will be responsible for their training. We can always use a helping hand. The fire service is changing. We now have to do things like EMS responses,overland search and rescue, hydrant maintenance, building inspections and the like,” Steve said.
The fire service is also responsible for taking trucks to schools, parties, senior centers and other functions where they need volunteers to explain what the fire service does and how citizens can help. Speakers are needed to give talks at events and to go out into the community to foster good relations. Steve’s biggest cry is “If you can’t physically fight fires; you can STILL HELP!”
“We are on standby to go anywhere we are needed” Steve continued. “That means that we may do like Chief Sullivan and other local IMT (Incident Management Team) members did after Hurricane Sandy and go help in New Jersey or go assist flood or tornado victims in other parts of the state/country.”
It costs $3000 just for a portable radio for one firefighter and another $3000 for their protective clothing. It’s sobering to think about what it takes to outfit just one person and train them for this type of work. But then again, how much is your life or the life of your loved ones worth to you?
Paid Firefighters are required to be FF1001 Level 1 and 2 certified in Mississippi and required to get Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification as well. Mississippi Volunteer Firefighters are also required to gain Volunteer Firefighter Certification and Medical Certification. The HCFS teams up with other local fire services and municipalities when classes are being offered so no firefighter has to wait for training courses.
Steve spoke of how he relates to his daily routine that is NEVER routine. “I love this line of work. The Salvation Army, Red Cross and other local agencies are always there to help but we just couldn’t do our jobs without our volunteer firefighters and those who have dedicated their lives to this service.”
I asked him if his Christianity helps him put things into perspective when he deals with the rough times. “Yes. My parents saw to it that I went to church and they taught us well. My wife, Judy and I now try to do the same with my kids and grand kids. My faith in God gives me comfort. I think God gives others comfort too, when they realize that God truly is in control.”
My last question to Steve Moore was how he reacts when people refer to him and the other firefighters as “heroes.”
“We’re not angels. We’re just people who care and want to help folks and make sure they’re safe. The term hero should be reserved for those guys and gals overseas fighting for our freedom and sacrificing life and limb for our country and the lives of others. We don’t look at ourselves like that. We just have a job we enjoy doing. We just want to make a bad day better.”