March 26, 2015

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Sementha Mathews, Public Information Officer for the City of Valdosta

VSU, City of Valdosta Tackle Project Pigeon and Train Firefighters in the Process

VALDOSTA — An unremitting battle against pigeon guano, or excrement, led to a unique partnership between Valdosta State University (VSU) and the City of Valdosta.

It all started during the 2015 Arbor Day celebration on VSU’s Rea and Lillian Steel North Campus in mid-February.

After reflecting on the importance of trees in Georgia and across the United States, Monica Haynes, landscape and grounds supervisor with VSU Plant Operations, discussed a pigeon problem in the university’s Sustella Avenue Parking Deck with Larry Hanson, Valdosta city manager.

Hanson shared Haynes’s concerns with Chief Freddie Broome of the Valdosta Fire Department (VFD), who turned the pigeon problem into a training opportunity for 13 recently hired firefighter recruits.  

On Monday, March 23, the firefighter recruits participated in an extensive eight-hour training day at VSU’s Sustella Avenue Parking Deck that provided a simulated high-rise instructional opportunity. The multi-level facility provided a training ground significantly larger and more multi-functional than the VFD’s training center on Blanchard Street.

The parking deck fire scenario gave the city’s firefighter recruits a realistic setting that allowed them to learn how to strategize getting to the location of the fire and connecting to the water source, while also considering the possible hazards that parked cars in the deck might present. The use of the facility also allowed the recruits the opportunity to train on extinguishing multiple fires occurring on multiple floors.  Both of these high-rise situations are examples of the Firefighting Strategy and Tactics Training required for all firefighters.

"We are fortunate to have a great relationship with Valdosta State University and appreciate the training opportunity that they provided for our new recruits," said Broome. “In this case, an opportunity presented itself that not only gave VSU a solution for their issue, but it also provided an opportunity to meet the unique training needs of our VFD recruits."

“Pigeons are known to be a nuisance, especially when they can find a good nesting site such as the Sustella Avenue Parking Deck,” said Haynes. “Valdosta State University continually cleans up the droppings from the pigeons, but this is a time-consuming and expensive undertaking. Since we do not use chemicals, a heavy flow of water is the most effective way to clean these areas. Due to the abilities of the Valdosta Fire Department, they can access a high volume of water through the hydrants and use it all over the parking deck easily. I observed the hard work that day of the 13 recruits and was very impressed. The pigeons were not harmed during the training exercise and will return. We hope that we can continue this partnership in the future.”  

Hanson described the project pigeon partnership as one of many prime examples of what can be achieved when governmental institutions work together.  

"Interestingly enough, this problem was brought to my attention following the Arbor Day event, which is another good example of a joint effort between the City of Valdosta and Valdosta State University," he said. “Through our cooperative efforts and the responsible use of our resources, a problem was turned into an opportunity.  Most importantly, the taxpayers we all serve are the real winners when agencies work together."

The 13 recruits will graduate from the VFD Recruits School on April 24.

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