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Many Lafourche firefighters homeless after Hurricane Ida

While firefighters work on the front lines of Hurricane Ida response, many of them also lost their homes in the storm.

LAFOURCHE PARISH, La. — The central office for Lafourche Fire District 3 took some heavy hits from Hurricane Ida.

On Tuesday, rain came through part of the roof, but enough is intact to keep operations going. It’s where many members of this firefighting team sleep every night.

Mary Rotolo is the supervisor of communications. When the hurricane tore through Lafourche Parish, it didn’t spare the homes of firefighters. Like so many other families, they too are facing a housing crisis.

“At this point w have 33 firefighters that are displaced and looking for housing,” Chief Devin Dedon said. “We’re hoping to find places soon, but at this point we’re having trouble.”

“There’s no places to rent,” Rotolo said. “There’s no hotels, the hotels are damaged.”

For more than 30 years, Rotolo shared this home in Golden Meadow with her husband until he died last year. Among the few things the storm didn’t destroy are the floral arrangements she made for his grave.

“I went to see him to talk to him after all this happened and he’s in a section where there’s normally a wind tunnel. All the flowers are gone out of the whole cemetery except for his,” Rotolo said.

As she decides whether to rebuild here, Rotolo says she has to consider her sons in that process.

With special-needs children and limited money from her husband’s life insurance, Rotolo has tough choices to make.

“My two boys are always going to need somebody to take care of them and I wonder what’s going to happen to them when I’m not here anymore,” she said. “So, in my mind, I need to take that money that I have and use it wisely and I’m not sure rebuilding here is wise.”

Firefighters respond to any emergency, but creating housing is beyond their capabilities. Their needs are specific — and simple.

“We’re hoping that FEMA steps up to at least let us stay in our community. Don’t house us two hours away,” Aline Landry said. “If we have a structure fire, how are we going to save someone’s home if we’re two hours away? We would like FEMA to keep us here in our community.”

“It’s very important that we keep our people here,” Chief Dedon said. “At this point, we have 10 of them that are looking to leave today. We want to keep them here.”

This is a group that prides itself in giving help. They are not accustomed to asking for it. But this hurricane is forcing them and so many others to let go of the past and accept a new reality.