The sounds of firefighters’ pagers buzzing and alarm sirens didn’t stop the hour-long ceremony and open house at the newest fire station in the Prairieville area.
Firefighters responded to two calls during a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house June 25 at Station 33, a new fire station built in response to the area’s growing population.
Prairieville Fire Chief Mark Stewart said residents in the Prairieville area near Station 33 should experience quicker response times thanks to the truck and two firefighters stationed at the facility.
Station 33, on Duplessis Road near U.S. 61, began providing services in March but opened its doors to the public June 25 for tours, the ceremony and jambalaya lunch.
It’s part of the department’s efforts to better handle the more than 2,000 emergency calls it expects this year.
Longtime Prairieville resident Walter Leftwich led tours pointing out its features to guests.
“It’s just what we needed,” said Leftwich, chairman of Fire Protection District 3. “Our firefighters deserve it and so does the community.”
A television, comfortable couches and a dining room “look like the one at most houses,” Leftwich said.
Stewart said the 7,000-square-foot station, which cost $1.3 million to construct, features two truck bays, a kitchen, living area, sleeping quarters and office space.
The layout will be used for construction of future stations, Stewart said.
Property has been purchased for a station at Bluff and Alligator Bayou roads and construction on that station should begin next year, he said.
The Bluff Road station will be built not far from a crash firefighters responded to the day before the ceremony.
Firefighters with the department were among those responding to a scene on June 24 in which two children died after an SUV slammed into them and three adults on a family fishing outing at a roadside bayou.
Stewart said that “when every second counts” it’s important to have stations located in highly populated area.
“With this station, we’ve established a footprint for the next station,” he said. “This is where they (firefighters) live and it’s like their house so we want to set it up to be comfortable and efficient.”
The building was designed by Domain Design Architecture and built by Capitol Construction.
Most of the furniture for the station was purchased with funds raised by the department’s Ladies Auxiliary.
Located in parish Fire District No. 3, the Prairieville-area station is being paid for with a 10-year, 10-mill property tax voters approved in April 2011 for major capital upgrades like new fire stations.
Stewart said at least three more fire stations are being considered.
Leftwich said the fire board is working to keep up with the area’s growth and build stations in key population areas.
State Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville, called the station “an excellent use of tax dollars.”
Assessor M.J. “Mert” Smiley joked that he usually attends ribbon cuttings with a measuring tape, but since the building is a public facility he could leave those tools at his office. He, too, praised the work of area firefighters.
Stewart said that while the building was a symbol of the fire service, the employees “really make the department work and for that I’m grateful.”