BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An empty lot next to Mike Anderson's restaurant on Lee Drive will soon be home to a new Baton Rouge fire station.
Station No. 20 has been in the works since 2008, but funding for the latest building of the Baton Rouge Fire Department was not approved until last year. Part of the area it will take on includes the newly annexed areas into the city, such as the L'Auberge Casino.
"Every union member is upset about it," Shane Spillman, president of the firefighters union, said. "The city expanded. We annexed in all this new area and now for adding another station, we're going to cut a truck out of service and my guys feel like it's a huge safety issue."
The truck Spillman referred to is a rescue truck that includes on it the "Jaws of Life" and several other tools used to free trapped people. The rescue trucks are also used to rescue people stranded in high-rise situations, helping unlock cars and more.
There are two rescue trucks for the entire city called 93 and 94. Rescue truck 93 will no longer be in service and the vacated positions will go to the new fire station.
"I felt it was my duty to find a way to staff it and I found a way to staff it without taking positions from my fellow firefighters," Baton Rouge Fire Chief Ed Smith said.
"In no way, shape or form, other than it will be better. The citizens will be better protected with the additional units that's on the trucks," Smith replied when asked if this would impact public safety.
He added even though 93 will be decommissioned and put into reserve, he's actually taking nine aerial trucks and adding ladders and other tools that are on the rescue trucks. That includes extrication tools, since he said those are the majority of their calls. Smith also said that means there will be 10 better equipped trucks spread across the city.
"The decision to move that equipment to the aerial trucks, in my opinion, 42 years of service, increases the safety and protection of the citizens of Baton Rouge," Smith explained.
However, Spillman said those trucks will not have all the tools the rescue trucks currently have. While Smith believes the additional trucks will reduce response times, Spillman said it will increase response times.
"When you cut one of those trucks out, you're only going to have one truck in service that's going to respond to that call. So, if that one truck doesn't have all that equipment, somebody's either going to have to go and get that other equipment because what's going to be on the aerial trucks can't do what they did," Spillman stated.
The chief, however, said the decision is done. There has been no word yet on when construction will begin for station No. 20 or when rescue truck 93 will go out of service.