Residents as council to change fire protection districts

The St. Landry Parish Council agreed to delay action Wednesday night on a request from residents in a rural subdivision near Sunset to change their fire protection district to obtain better service and lower home insurance rates.

Before voting on the motion, the council said it wants to find out the feasibility of having Fire District 4 obtain an extra water tank truck to help the Camelot Heights subdivision in case of fire.

Residents of Camelot Heights who spoke at the meeting said their homes are now served by Fire District 4, a volunteer fire department located in Cankton.

Because of that arrangement, the residents said homeowners insurance has been placed in one category below the highest rating, a 10.

Carol Fontenot, one of the residents who spoke at the meeting, said residents in Camelot Heights would prefer to be in Fire District 3, which has a substation in nearby Shuteston, allowing it to provide a better response time.

After the meeting, Fire District 3 Chief Nick Vidrine said the district has nine stations responsible for a 300 square-mile area.

Five of the stations are manned, Vidrine said.

Both Vidrine and District 4 chief Ervin Menard spoke at the meeting.

Vidrine said he and Menard have discussed the issue, and in the event of a residential fire in the Camelot Heights area, Fire District 3 would provide assistance.

Menard told the council even if he had an additional tanker, he could not guarantee he could fill it adequately with water since the ponds used as sources are located on substandard roads.

Council member Dexter Brown said switching fire districts is not a simple matter, and Vidrine agreed.

Vidrine said accepting the subdivision into Fire District 3 would require discussions with the council’s bonding attorney as well as holding public hearings before drafting a final proposal.

Menard said the 3-mill property tax, which funds operation of District 4, only generates about $20,000 annually.

“In District 4, we are all volunteers. District 3, they have no volunteers. We do the best we can. We have maybe eight to 10 (volunteers). How can you rate a volunteer fire department with one that has no volunteers?” Menard said.

Council member Pam Gautreau said she and the Camelot Heights residents are not blaming Menard.

Gautreau and Fontenot told the council the subdivision was once protected by the town of Sunset, but town officials decided to terminate fire protection to Camelot Heights about 10 years ago.

Sunset is located closer to Camelot Heights than either Fire District 4 or the Shuteston substation.

“I feel your plight. Give us time to investigate whether we would be doing a detriment to Fire District 3,” Vidrine said. “Right now it’s really hard to find young people who are interested in providing fire protection.”