LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Dark, gray skies and strong winds provided a fitting background for a groundbreaking ceremony. The weather reminded everyone of the day Katrina pounded Long Beach and washed away Fire Station number two.
For the past four years, firefighters have been working out of a double-wide trailer on First Street.
"Being able to have this trailer is wonderful for us," Fire Chief George Bass said. "It's a little bit bigger than what we had over at station two and some of the guys felt real good about it. But they're ready to get into a real building."
On Tuesday, the firefighters joined city leaders and community members in celebrating the start of construction on a new downtown fire station.
"We want to let everybody know that Long Beach is coming back," said Alderman-at-Large Leonard Carrubba.
The two-story, 12,400 square foot brick building will go up on Second Street, right behind the temporary trailer. It features a commercial size kitchen, physical training room, classroom space, day room, and an apparatus bay that can hold four trucks. The station is also designed to accommodate three shifts of firefighters.
"We tried to build for the future," said Bass. "We're going to have nine individual sleeping areas, with a chief officer's quarters there to add more comfort to the men. It's a little hard to get into a bunk room where you've got five to six men sleeping and some snore and some don't."
The building will also serve as a shelter for first responders. The station will be built to withstand up to 200 mph winds. It also has a back-up water and sewer system, along with a generator. That means during a disaster, the firefighters, their equipment, and their vehicles can stay put for quicker response to an emergency.
"They won't have to cut their way down to this area like they did during Hurricane Katrina, sawing our way down and back hoeing and pushing all the rest of it to get to people that were injured and in need," said Long Beach Mayor Billy Skellie. "This has been a really, really long trip and I'm glad today we were able to get to a destination."
"One of the blessings of Katrina was that we have funding sources here to be able to build a new facility that I think everybody in the city, all the citizens, certainly all the firefighters are going be proud of," said Bass.
The $3.4 million fire station should be finished by July of 2010. The project is funded by FEMA, insurance, MDA and Hazard Mitigation Grant.