The storm in the gulf has put Gulfport's fire department in a rather unique position. The city still has four fire stations operating out of hurricane recovery trailers. So, to make sure the firefighters in those temporary facilities are safe, they'll ride out the storm somewhere else.
Engine 11 was parked under the shell that's left of fire station number seven. The building used to be the Gulfport firehouse closest to the water, until the area's last storm slammed ashore and gutted the complex.
Curtis Prestwood is assigned to station seven. After surviving Katrina, he said, "We see what it can do everyday. And we don't take any chances now."
Prestwood and Frank Skinner are part of the unit that works at the Cowan Road fire house. Since the 2005 hurricane, their work accommodations have been in a trailer, 100 feet west of station number seven's remnants. So with a storm in the gulf, Skinner says, "We're really not interested in hanging around down here."
When "B" shift gets the word, it will evacuate to station six, a much more secure fire house north of the railroad tracks. That's the same place these guys worked out of after Katrina.
"It's kind of like going back to how it was, back to having the big slumber party," Prestwood said.
Gulfport still hasn't finalized plans to rebuild the four fire stations that sustained Katrina damage. So temporary trailers like the one behind me remain a vital part of the daily life of a Gulfport firefighter. However, every time a tropical threat tracks toward the city, Gulfport firemen must jump in their trucks, and get out of harm's way.
Chief Pat Sullivan says, "We'll eventually get back into them. It's just part of the legacy of Katrina. It will take some time, but we'll get there."
The men at station seven expect to be back on the south side of the tracks as soon as the storm subsides.