Fire stations may merge
St. Pierre gives departments until the end of the year to come up with a consolidation proposal
The new department would also have one fire chief, instead of the nine the parish has now.
Reggie Gaubert, Hahnville’s fire chief for more than 20 years, says a committee was formed in May by the Firemen’s Association to look at the pros and cons of consolidating the fire departments.
"A lot of people don’t like to hear the word consolidation, but it’s bound to happen one of these days,” he said. “Maybe not in the next four years, but sooner or later it could happen.”
Gaubert says the idea is worth looking into even if its implementation may be further down the road.
“We do some consolidating among the fire stations already,” he said. “For instance, if one of the fire departments needs a new fire hose and another does too, we arrange to go out for bids together to help to lower the costs.”
Parish President V. J. St. Pierre wants a plan by the association before the end of the year.
“I have met with the Firemen’s Association and gave them until the end of the year to come up with a proposal,” he said. “It will be up to them to determine if consolidation is feasible or not.”
While consolidating the departments would help with the money aspect of things, all of the current departments still desperately need volunteers.
“Right now, we have about 40 volunteers at the Hahnville Fire Department,” he said. “But 15 of those are actual fire fighters.”
Those volunteers are needed to do more than just put out fires.
“Not everyone that signs up to be a volunteer will have to put out fires,” he said. “We need volunteers to assist with computer work, passing out water at the fire scene and just keeping a general head count of the volunteers at the scene.”
All of the departments accept applications from anyone over the age of 12.
“We have a junior volunteer fire fighting program and we accept children as young as 12 years of age provided their parents are part of the fire department,” he said. “But, because of our insurance, our fire department doesn’t allow them to put out fires.”
During Gaubert’s 20 years of service, volunteerism has really fallen off even though the time it takes to be a volunteer fireman is minimal.
“Not just in our parish, but nationwide people aren’t volunteering like they use to,” Gaubert said. “Right now, Jamie Cortez, fire chief in Des Allemands, needs people.”
Gaubert says there’s not a whole lot of new development in Des Allemands so trying to recruit volunteers is difficult.
“We support each other,” he said. “When a fire occurs in Des Allemands - Bayou Gauche, Paradis and Des Allemands respond together.”
Gaubert says volunteer fire fighters don’t receive any compensation.
“We do give them a banquet,” he said. “And we supply the T-shirts and/or the equipment they need to fight fires.”
Because of the lack of compensation, the volunteers tend to come and go.
“When it comes to the shortage of volunteers, it’s an up and down slope,” he said. “Right now, Jamie is on the down slope.”
Some of the volunteer fire fighters get married and move on and all of them have to have a second career since they aren’t paid for their services.
“They have families to support,” he said. “When they get a call at 5 a.m. that there’s a fire and they need to be on the scene, they can’t go if they have to work the morning shift at work.”
Gaubert says at one time plants used to be more lenient and work with the volunteer fire fighters, but that doesn’t happen as often as it used to.
“These days with the shortage of workers and the demands of a job, most employers won’t be that flexible anymore,” he said. “Plus, a lot of these guys want to spend the time they have off with their families.”
With the shortage of volunteers, it’s paramount to work in teams, especially during the summer.
“Last week, we responded to a call in Mimosa that a house was on fire,” Gaubert said. “Luling and Hahnville worked together to bring the blaze under control.”
For more information about how to become a volunteer for the Hahnville Fire Station, go to www.hahnvillevfd.webs.com.
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