As Geismar Volunteer Fire Department Chief Nat Stephens walked through the new fire station, he pointed out the convenient bunker gear hallway and six-bay fire truck area, double the size of his previous station.
Opened last month, the new station replaces an almost 50-year-old building, which was constructed before the area's population boom.
Stephens said he's been dreaming about a new station for years and had started plans before the 2016 flood damaged the station on La. 73.
For Stephens, the spacious new station, opened recently, features details and the amenities the Fire Department has been waiting for.
The small, metal buildings that were original homes to Fire Protection District 1 stations in Sorrento, St. Amant and Geismar were built by volunteer labor in 1973, with money raised by selling jambalaya and barbecue dinners and holding other fundraisers.
Fire Protection District 1 has six volunteer fire departments, each with its own main station. Four of the fire departments also have smaller substations to help cover their areas.
A pool of more than 30 paid contract firefighters cover the day shift for District 1, and approximately 200 volunteer firefighters cover the night shift throughout the district.
Two other fire protection districts, District 3 in Prairieville and District 2 on the west bank in Donaldsonville, cover the rest of the parish.
Gonzales and Donaldsonville have their own fire departments.
District 1's three new stations were planned years before the flood of 2016 — although that event slowed and complicated the start of construction. Each station is similarly designed. Stephens said the fire board agreed to copy a policy used by the Ascension Parish School Board to use the same set of plans to build multiple facilities on different sites.
"We had to wait because of the flood, but these stations were paid for with funds saved by the district," Stephens, a member of the fire board, said.
While the Geismar station doesn't have paid firefighters on every shift, he said the new station is equipped with sleeping quarters, a fitness center, kitchen and offices to accommodate growth.
A large pond in the rear of the station was used to provide the dirt to elevate the station, in hopes of preventing a repeat of the 2016 flooding.
While a few finishing touches are not complete, the Geismar department has already had the building blessed. Local artist Terry Dunbar is painting a mural in the entrance area of the fire station. Stephens said the mural represents life in Ascension Parish.
Fire Protection District 1 is funded by a portion of a half-cent sales tax that raises $2.3 million to $2.6 million for the district annually.
Ascension Parish Fire District Chairman James LeBlanc said each of the three stations cost an average of $2.8 million each and have been under planning and construction for 2 years.
LeBlanc said the district is building two new substations at the Galvez-Lake and St. Amant stations at a cost of about $1.8 million each.
Two other stations, the St. Amant station on La. 431 and the Galvez-Lake sttion on Joe Sevario Road, were completely remodeled after the 2016 flood.