Gulfport Begins $2.8 Million Firehouse Repair Project

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- Gulfport is using insurance proceeds and FEMA reimbursements to fix 10 of its 12 fire stations.  They were all damaged on August 29, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina roared through south Mississippi.

One of the damaged firehouses sits on Pass Road near Highway 49.  Gulfport originally built fire station number three in 1902. More than a century later, the Pass Road location is getting a Katrina induced facelift. Painters are priming interior walls. Soon, the firehouse's living quarters will look like new.

The men of station three and nearby station four will move out of temporary dwellings and into fresher, more stable buildings. Ray McDaniel is currently stationed at the Railroad Street fire station.

"It's looking pretty good. They're getting closer," he said, referring to the work done inside station four. "Once they get a few more things done, they finish the touchups, we'll be moving back in."

Gulfport has electricians and contractors doing this sort of work at virtually all of its fire stations. Ten locations sustained storm damage. Four buildings were hit so hard, firemen had to move into temporary trailers. For McDaniel, the cramped quarters are typical of life in post Katrina Gulfport.

"You know I lived in a trailer at the house, in a FEMA trailer. And you come to work and you're in a trailer. You just get used to it," he said.

One of the temporary trailers is at station seven on Cowan Road. Station seven is the closest fire station to the Mississippi Sound. That proximity made it a target for trouble. Sure enough, the storm tore through its brick walls, and gutted the facility. The damage at station seven is so extensive, it's the only Gulfport firehouse that has orders to be completely rebuilt.

The new station seven will be about a half block north, shaded by several oak trees. It will remain south of the railroad tracks. City leaders say the slightly higher elevation at that site should provide a bit more protection from the next natural disaster.

Gulfport's comptroller says the cost to repair the city's hurricane damaged fire stations is nearly $2.8 million. But again, the city isn't paying for that work. Reimbursement checks from FEMA and the city's insurance provider are covering those costs.