Iberville Volunteer Fire faces staffing shortages

Iberville Parish Fire department facing staffing issues

IBERVILLE PARISH (WAFB) - A scary moment for a family in Iberville Parish that could have been prevented if their neighborhood fire station had more man power.

It took fire fighters nearly 30 minutes to show up to a fire despite the fire station just being right down the road.

A shed in Iberville Parish went up into a blaze after a near by fire had ignited grass around the shed last weekend.

The owner of the shed, Christina Portilla said they called 911, but no one came for nearly 30 minutes leaving the family and neighbors in Bayou Sorrel left to try and put out the flames by themselves, using nothing but garden hoses.

“With that wind it was impossible to contain. The fire was like trying to go one place and then in the end we let the fire burn and we were concentrated to the corner of the house that it was going to get into the fire,” Portilla said.

Fortunately, the fire didn’t reach the house and it was saved. However, her husband came out worse and suffered burns up his arms.

“I thought my husband was going to die,” she said.

Now she’s wondering why it took so long for the fire station to respond, not even half a mile from her home.

There are three fire stations around Bayou Sorrel and Bayou Pigeon area all volunteer, and John Marque who oversees the fire departments in Iberville Parish says that since the pandemic less people have been willing to suit up.

“If we could get more volunteers we’d have a better chance of someone being around to respond,” Marque said.

In some instances, like Portilla’s some fire crews have to come as far as Plaquemine.

“The answer in a couple areas within Iberville parish has been to try and obtain employment part time from firemen who work in other fire departments,” Marque says.

Marque stated that he’s been working on staffing with other fire stations in the Bayou Sorrel area with the permanent part-time fire fighters, so when there isn’t volunteers available there is someone to answer the call.

“The same thing that happened right here could happen to anyone else in this area. It is important to take attention that there is children, elderly people or handicap people, like in my case my daughter, something major could happen,” Portilla said.

Marque hopes to have those fire fighters hired by the end of March.

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