WATER VALLEY – After working 27 years as a fire fighter and first responder, Mark McGavock plans to end his career at the Water Valley Fire Department after he was hired as fire chief last week.
“This will be where I finish up,” McGavock told the Herald Monday after visiting the department to meet the crew in preparation to assume his new role. His career already includes a decade at the department, from 1997 to 2007, and he is excited to be back. His work experience also includes serving as a fire fighter in Memphis, Grenada and Batesville, and working for Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).
McGavock is already making plans to beef up the depleted rolls at the department, using part-time firefighters who are employed at neighboring stations and are already certified until he can get a good hiring pool.
“One of our first goals will also be to get everybody certified,” McGavock also explained, referring to the young crew currently working that will attend the Mississippi State Fire Academy for certification. “We will be doing some in-house training in the meantime.”
The new chief also said the volunteers in the county are also critical to the city’s response to fires.
“We can’t do it without those guys,” he explained. “We need all of then, if we get a big building or big house, even fully staffed, we are going to need them,” he added.
McGavock stressed safety is always the biggest priority.
“My number one goal is to send them all home every morning,” McGavock emphasized, adding that his status as an adjunct instructor at the state fire academy will help with providing continuing education courses for the crew.
Another safety priority will be a healthy work environment which includes keeping gear used by the firefighters clean and proper use of equipment to minimize exposure during a fire.
This priority hits close to home for McGavock, who learned earlier this year he had a tumor in his pancreas, a diagnosis that doctors said likely stemmed from his career as a firefighter.
“I have fought a lot of big fires, from Bondafoam on down,” the chief said. He recalled the toxic fumes from the Bondafoam fire, just weeks into his first employment at Water Valley, turned everything the crew was wearing green and gear had to be discarded.
“We are going to start at the beginning, keeping our turnout gear clean after fighting a fire,” McGavock also said, referencing what is now a more common safety procedure to minimize exposure to toxins in the gear worn during fires.
“If I had know what I known, now, maybe it would be different,” McGavock continued. “It’s a story that I share with everybody.”
McGavock said he had a clean scan and after a minor surgery on Dec. 11 he will start full-time in January. He plans to work part-time until then.