BURNSIDE — Fifth Ward Volunteer Fire Department Chief Peter Roblin enjoys hosting tours of his new fire station.
The tour, however, is quick, as the new 10,000-square-foot station is pretty much empty these days.
But Roblin does stop for a minute to discuss his plans for a large, empty meeting room, which has newly waxed floors.
Soon chairs and tables will fill the space, and so will volunteer firefighters.
The station also includes four large covered bays, smaller offices and bathroom facilities, Roblin said.
The new Station 41, 5473 La. 44, was made possible thanks to a purchase by Ascension Fire Protection District 1, Roblin said.
The fire district purchased the 1.32-acre site and building for $700,000 from developer Doug Diez, and Diez provided more than $150,000 in improvements to the former golf course maintenance shed.
“This really fell in our lap, well in the lap of District 1,” Roblin said.
The department has Station 40 on La. 22 in Darrow, but population growth in the Burnside area left the station over-taxed, he said.
He said in recent years the populations of Ascension Trace, River Ridge, Pelican Crossing and Pelican Point subdivisions have sky-rocketed, more than doubling the number of homes the department must cover with a mostly volunteer staff. Adding to the strain are two added factors: La. 44 is routinely congested and railroad tracks between Station 40 and many of the new residents have caused some delays in service, Roblin said.
Those issues resulted in the Property Insurance Association of Louisiana recommending that the fire district build a new station in the Fifth Ward Fire Department’s service area.
The addition of the new station, next door to the Pelican Point subdivision, will mean the department now has equipment, offices and volunteers on both sides of the railroad tracks. The station site includes a off-road entrance to the subdivision, which Robert Collins, second assistant chief, said will come in handy when traffic backs up on La. 44.
The need for those volunteers and equipment at the new Station 41 was evident on Saturday when, during a tour of the station, the firefighters received a call. While the call was canceled, it showed the need for a truck and station in the area.
The station’s location will also come in handy when the reopened Ormet facility is up to full capacity, Roblin said.
“Now, with the new station, we’ll have more options to get to calls from this side of the track if La. 44 is backed up with work traffic,” Roblin said.
In fact, Roblin said, the new station’s location has already been beneficial because of a railroad track closure on La. 22 near Station 40. Having equipment at both stations meant respond times weren’t negatively affected by the railroad crossing’s closure, Collins said.
The department will soon be receiving a new fire truck and will be able to have equipment at both stations.
Fifth Ward Emergency Medical Services Coordinator Shanon Collins said having the new station will also help with medical calls, which make up a majority of calls worked by the department.
“When response times count so much with EMS, this station will certainly mean a lot to our residents,” Collins said.
Private donations will be used to pay for a 1,500-square-foot concrete driveway in front of the fire station, Randy Gautreau, with project contractor Acadian Builders, said.
While the new station will put a financial strain on Fifth Ward’s tight budget — the department must pay for utility costs — plans are being considered to rent two of the unused bays to a private business. He said the parish’s legal department is taking a look at whether or not they can lease the bays.
The department plans several fundraisers in coming months to raise money to cover the additional costs of the new building.
Roblin thanked parish government, the fire district and local residents for their financial support and assistance in making the new station a reality.
“We’ve got a great community,” Roblin said. “We want to be able to serve them in the best way possible.”
The new Station 41 will host an open house from noon to 2 p.m. on Sept. 17. Food and beverages will be served.