New Ladder Truck To Serve St. Martin, Gulf Hills

A new 77 foot ladder truck is taking fire fighting and rescues to new heights in the St. Martin and Gulf Hill communities.

The $460,000 truck will be unveiled with a Ribbon Busting Ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. at the Fort Bayou Volunteer Fire Department on Hugh Seymour Lane.

"This aerial truck is a great addition to fire protection for all of St. Martin," Ray Watson, District Fire Coordinator said. "It ensures our fire departments can keep up with the multi-story commercial growth and higher elevations for residential homes in this area."

Jackson County needed the new ladder truck to maintain its fire rating requirements due to increased building heights since Hurricane Katrina. The new ladder truck can easily reach four story buildings for rescues. The truck's water canon, at the tip of the ladder, also allows firefighters to battle blazes six stories high.

In the last two years, at least 30 residential structures have been built or rebuilt more than 10 feet above the ground in the St. Martin Community. The County's Planning Department expects that number to increase in the next two years.

The Fort Bayou and West Jackson County VFD currently provides fire protection to almost 80 commercial buildings over three stories.

"Based on the areas growth before the storm, we knew a ladder truck was going to be needed. Katrina sped that process up by two or three years. Just look at the homes being rebuilt on Racetrack Road and Brittany Avenue," Watson said.

The new ladder truck will be housed at the Fort Bayou VFD main station but will be manned by crews from both Fort Bayou and West Jackson County VFD. Fort Bayou Fire Chief Lyle Crandall says the Fire District has been preparing for the truck's arrival for an entire year.

"Our district has undergone extensive training for this vehicle even before it arrived. Currently, we have eight firefighters fully trained to drive and operator the truck with 15 more firefighters in the training process," Crandall said.

The ladder truck will be dedicated to former Fire Commissioner Jerry Bell who passed away in August 2007.