Fire stations rising in outlying areas

The cinder block wall was taking shape under steel superstructure rising along Duplessis Road as workers recently smoothed out mortar between the gray rectangular blocks.

They will form the walls for a truck bay in a future $1.29 million, 6,500-square-foot fire station for the Prairieville Volunteer Fire Department just east of Airline Highway.

The Duplessis station being built by Fire Protection District No. 3 is one of two fire station projects underway in unincorporated Ascension Parish.

To the southeast, on La. 44, parish Fire Protection District No. 1 is rebuilding the facade and truck bay doors at the 7th District Volunteer Fire Department station north of Gonzales.

A tornado hit the station Dec. 12.

“This is insurance funding paying for the work,” said Gene Witek, Fire District No. 1 service coordinator.

Under direction to add new stations in Prairieville after the last fire insurance rating a few years ago, parish Fire District No. 3 officials won voter approval in April 2011 for a new 10-year, 10-mill property tax.

Fire officials said the tax gave them the breathing room to build and man the new station and as many as three more to keep up with growth, fire officials said.

Prairieville Chief Mark Stewart said that from the Fire District’s existing stations on La. 73 and La. 929, reaching the Duplessis area requires driving fire trucks on narrow neighborhood roads with 25 mph speed limits or heading south to La. 621 and up Airline.

“There’s no real quick way,” Stewart said. “Having this station there will certainly help us to improve response time in that vicinity over there and make it much quicker to get trucks on scene when we get calls.”

Work by contractor Capitol Construction, of Baton Rouge, began nearly three months ago and is expected to be finished in mid-December.

Once finished, the new station will not only have a truck bay but full living quarters for the two people who will staff the station 24 hours per day, six people in all.

Witek, of Fire District No. 1, said the December tornado blew out the 7th District station’s truck bay back doors, which led to the bay’s front also being destroyed.

The tornado also damaged the roof and broke up part of the front driveway with falling blocks, Witek said.

He said firefighters were responding to the tornado when it struck the station.

Witek said the tornado damage also exposed deficiencies in the design of the four-truck bay, which weakened the structure.

He said the front walls were not properly connected to the sidewalls, and the rear doors on the truck bay were not properly installed.

Witek said the $190,000 project began in mid-September and is scheduled to be finished Oct. 20.

He said the contractor on the job is New Limits Enterprise, of New Orleans, and insurance is covering about 95 percent of the cost.