Desoto County News

Groundbreaking held for Walls Fire Training Center

Photo: Officials toss dirt in the groundbreaking for the new fire training center at the Walls Volunteer Fire Department. (Bob Bakken/

Walls Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Mike Hancock has had a dream for several years; a dream to have a fire training center located in the community. 

The training center would allow his firefighters and others in the area the ability to learn how to combat and extinguish structure fires, without traveling and being taken away from their jobs for an extended period of time.  

The dream is becoming a reality and the next step took place Wednesday with a groundbreaking ceremony for the Walls Fire Training Center.

Hancock said it should be June when the facility is able to be first used. For Hancock, being able to train firefighters for when that call comes to fight a fire has been an important part of his career.  

Walls Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Hancock

First a volunteer and then a paid firefighter in Horn Lake, Hancock became a County Deputy Fire Marshal, later the Deputy Director of Emergency Services and County Training Officer.  

“Training has been all that I have done my whole career,” Hancock said. “I’ve tried to find a way to keep my guys trained.”  

The center has come about following fundraiser after fundraiser to raise money for it. The tipping point in its favor, however, came when Hancock received a big boost from state Rep. Hester Jackson-McCray (D-Horn Lake) through funding from the state legislature.  

“We had a long talk and she said, ‘I’m going to get you some money,’” Hancock said. “She did it. The idea of getting some money out of the legislature for a little fire department in Walls, Mississippi, I just thought it would never happen.” 

The money was a $250,000 grant approved by the legislature from a bill written by Jackson-McCray and also pushed by Rep. Jeff Hale (R-Nesbit), on a committee involved in emergency services, and affiliated with the Bridgetown Fire Department and state firefighters’ association.  

Wednesday’s ceremony ahead of the groundbreaking included remarks from Brad Kuykendall, representing state Attorney General Lynn Fitch, and County Supervisor Ray Denison, whose district includes Walls.  

Denison noted the bi-partisan support for the project becoming a reality.  

“I like to think that I’ve never seen the county as united as it is right now,” Denison said. “It doesn’t come easy. It takes give and take, it takes Republicans, Democrats and independents and whatever you claim to be. We don’t get there by fighting all of the time.”  

Hancock noted the number of fires nationwide has gone down, so fire prevention is working. However, Hancock said one way to be sharp as a firefighter is to be actually fighting fires, which makes the training center even more important. 

The fundraising will continue, Hancock said, as new additions are planned. 

“We want to put up a rappel tower and we want to be able to train on them,” Hancock explained. “We want an extrication pad put out here, so we can bring cars in here and do extrication training. The gamut of what we need to train on is just do big. Now that we’ve got a spot to train, we need to keep adding to it.”  

The grant helped get the training center going to the point where Wednesday’s groundbreaking could take place and the project could move forward. However, Hancock said current plans for the center means about $310,000 is the price tag and another $300,000 will be needed to achieve all of the enhancements desired. 

Then, the fire training center dream can truly become a reality.  

Concept sketch of the Walls Volunteer Fire Training Center.