It was a mission to help people who've lost so much to Hurricane Katrina not have to worry so much about losing what they have left to fire. Gulfport Seabees spent Tuesday morning gutting a volunteer fire station in Jackson County. Firefighters called it an important first step toward making the community safer.
Katrina took all their trucks, half their volunteers, and put one of their two fire stations under 11 feet of water. Firefighters in Gulf Park Estates say even with two loaner trucks, protecting 14 square miles of Jackson County has become a challenge.
"It's a long trip from the other station to this area," said firefighter Bobby Dillard, Jr." It's quite a jog especially if we have to get there quick for an emergency. So having this station will give us the coverage area we need again and more capacity for trucks."
Public safety was on the minds of Gulfport Seabees as they spent hours cleaning up in and around the fire station on East Simmons Bayou Drive. They wanted to help firefighters speed up the repair process.
Master Chief Matthew Cabral said "I know the fire department is going to do what they can to be able to respond. With us helping them here, that gets the fire house closer for the community here in the Gulf Park area. The quicker they can respond, the more lives they can save or homes."
The helping hands were eager to work. These Seabees say as part of the staff command they usually organize and oversee projects but seldom get to participate.
"Actually getting your hands dirty," said Cabral. "I think that's more gratifying. You get to meet the people and see the people and touch them more. You get to work hand in hand. The firefighters were here. They helped out also in this recovery effort here in this station so we can get back up and running."
The Seabees know the work to get the station running again is far from over and they intend to continue to helping as much as they can. The volunteer firefighters say they lost seven trucks during the storm and have had to borrow two trucks from out-of-state.