Firefighters leave parade to save St. Amant home

Staff reports
This fire was contained by members of the St. Amant Volunteer Fire Department Sunday after they received a call while at a parade they were scheduled to lead.

ST. AMANT - It was a classic case of being at the right place at the right time, according to St. Amant Chief Officer James E. LeBlanc.

The St. Amant Volunteer Fire Department was set to lead the Krewe of Sarita's Mexican Mardi Gras Parade on Sunday around 2 p.m. The Restaurant is located on the Diversion Canal in the St. Amant community.

While the parade was lining up to start, the department got a call of a working house fire on River Highlands Drive. The call came in at 2:08 p.m.

LeBlanc advised his two volunteer firefighters who were with him at the parade that it was the road they were located on, so the firefighters left the parade and rushed to the working structure fire.

Within two minutes of receiving the call, LeBlanc said he and the two volunteers arrived on scene of the two-story fire.

Within minutes LeBlanc and Volunteer Firefighter Nicole Jacks started fighting the fire with local neighbors backing them up on the hoses.

“We had neighbors from all over River Highlands Drive helping us pull hoses and fight the fire," LeBlanc said.

"Volunteer Firefighter Shane Rojas who had just joined the volunteer fire department three days before, was operating the fire truck that was providing the water to us.”

LeBlanc said if the firefighters were not on River Highlands Drive at the time call came through, the entire structure and possibly the home next to it would have been lost.

It was a classic case of being at the right place at the right time, he said.

The area has been the center of controversy for almost four years now, according to LeBlanc.

Around four years ago, a St. Amant resident donated property for the St. Amant Volunteer Fire Department to build a fire station to cover the area for fire protection. Because the property donated was considered wetlands, the St. Amant Volunteer Fire Department has spent close to $10,000 of donated funds to get a permit to build the fire station.

“We still cannot get a permit to build a fire station in this very populated community. Every time we turn around, the doors get slammed on a volunteer fire department trying to build a station for the community,” he said. “I'm not saying that if the station was built today, that we would have had a better response than what we had today on this working structure fire, but what I am saying the trucks would have been a lot closer to this area than they are right now.”

It just continues to be a shame, LeBlanc said, when firefighters are trying to provide a emergency service to the community, and continue to get shot down over a permit.

“Again, we are very thankful that Sarita's Mexican Restaurant asked us to participate in the local family parade, because the outcome would be different for this St. Amant family,” LeBlanc said.