New Orleans Fire Department still recovering on Katrina anniversary


Posted on August 29, 2011 at 10:32 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 29 at 10:42 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- Six years ago today, Hurricane Katrina made landfall and history. Ever since then, New Orleans has been rebuilding, including the city's fire department.

"It brings back memories, a solemn occasion," said New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Charles Parent on the sixth anniversary of Katrina.

As the rest of the world watched, emergency responders stayed the course to save the crescent city.

"They did a lot but they saw a lot, and I'm not really crazy about the memories that it does bring back," Parent said.

On the post-Katrina front lines, firefighters spent endless hours and days rescuing victims stranded by floodwater. They also risked their lives putting out fires that erupted across the hurricane-ravaged city.

"There were just so many things going on at that time. We had some of the biggest fires in our city. The guys really stepped up," Parent said.

Katrina would also cause extensive damage to more than 20 fire stations in the city. Volunteers fixed many of them, but today a handful still haven't been rebuilt.

"We wish that it would be completed by now and that all the engine houses would be back up to a good state," said New Orleans Firefighters President Nick Felton.

According to Felton some firefighters are still housed in temporary trailers, and three stations haven't even been rebuilt. He said those realities pose a public safety concern.

"There are big holes and gaps in that area and we are absolutely concerned over," said Felton, referring to not having fire stations up and running in parts of the city.

Felton blames bureaucratic red tape for the sluggish rebuilding process and difficulty with accessing FEMA and other funding sources.

As the city's fire department continues fighting to rebuild, those hired to keep you safe want to make sure it is done right.

"We don't just want to rebuild what we had before. We want to use the best models to rebuild in a better place," Parent said.

According to the superintendent, a total of five New Orleans fire stations still need work.

The city administration has gone on record in the past saying that rebuilding fire stations remains a top priority.