Bay St. Louis in dire need of life saving equipment

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - A fire recent fire in Bay St. Louis only highlighted the fact that the city is without an important piece of equipment vital to fighting fires and saving lives.

Mayor Les Fillingame said, "If we had a house fire in a house that is elevated to the elevation requirements and had someone stuck in the second floor, we would really have an issue."

That is why Fillingame says getting a fire truck with a ladder is an absolute necessity.

"The situation will ultimately present itself. It could be tomorrow; it could be next year," Fillingame said.

Fire Chief Pam San Fillippo recalls a few scares over the years.

"The OLA gym, the old Sea Coast Echo building where, in that fire, we borrowed a bucket truck from a power company, and that's just not designed for that type of work," San Fillippo said.

Also the Hotel Reed fire in December is another example. Since it was an abandoned building, time was not a critical issue, but in the case of a person stuck in an elevated home, not having a fire truck with a ladder could mean the difference between life or death.

Fillingame said, "It's really a little unnerving to think about what we would have been doing in the early minutes of fighting that blaze if there had been people in that structure."

The city has applied for several years now for a FEMA grant, in order to purchase the truck, but they have been denied even though the same agency is responsible for enforcing the strict elevation requirements.

"We just need to get the two agencies of FEMA to consider what is being mandated on one side and what's being funded on the other side, and there is a great disparity there," Fillingame said.

In addition, the fire chief explains not having the truck could also end up costing taxpayers.

San Fillippo said, "The rating bureau had told us a few years ago that they would require us to have a ladder truck in the near future, and they are who grade our department. And our grade greatly determines what you pay for your fire insurance."

Fillingame said the city was turned down for the grant already this year, but they plan to appeal the denial.

"We look at it as a necessity now, and we are going to have to find a way to come up with the funding," Fillingame said.

Fillingame said if the city is forced to buy the truck with their own money, they will have to do so.

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