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Technical difficulties during Duson fire sheds light on funding issues

Posted at 10:51 PM, Nov 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-27 00:00:27-05

Rural Lafayette Parish fire departments are sounding the alarm about their aging equipment after an incident Monday morning in Duson.

That fire happened in the 500 block of Copperton Road.

Duson’s fire chief Coby Duhon tells KATC’s Dannielle Garcia that their water tankers broke down while at the scene.

Duhon said the lack of funding for rural departments is affecting response times and endangering people’s lives.

“This truck here is 25 years old,” said Duhon about one of the trucks.

Aged equipment and lack of personnel is causing issues in fire departments across Lafayette Parish.

“We can’t give any more incentives than we already do to try to make someone come here after they work a 10-12 hour day, to fight fires at night, to go to wrecks, go do whatever,” said Duhon.

Monday morning those issues showed even more than usual.

The Judice, Scott and Duson departments initially got the call about the fire.

Judice’s tanker was in the shop and Duson’s broke at the scene.

“We went today to respond and it was dead,” he said.

They called Milton to assist, but their tanker broke on the way.

The departments then called Broussard, but because of the distance, they called Acadia parish for help too.

“It’s very frustrating to get here and you go to do a job and it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to,” said Chief Duhon.

He said because of the delay, the fire spread to a neighboring trailer home, engulfing it in flames as well.

“I can honestly say that we could’ve saved more than what we did. This morning was a perfect example of us not being able to respond at a decent time and also it delayed us from being able to protect and serve in the amount of time that we should’ve been there,” said Duhon.

While we were at the Duson Fire Department, firefighters got called to a major car crash.

“Had it been 7-8 o’clock in the morning, you would’ve had one if any show up because people have work. It’s tough,” he said.

Fortunately, volunteers were at the station for training and were able to respond. But Chief Duhon said he hopes they don’t have to continue facing these problems.

“It could be a wreck, it could be someone’s life in danger. Five minutes can be a lot of time, a minute can be a lot of time. So it’s very important that when there’s no more money how can we continue operating. It’s going to take a toll. These departments, when the funding is out, there’s no other thing to do but quit responding,” he said

Chief Duhon added that the budget for fire departments in Lafayette parish got cut by 25% for the 2019 fiscal year. He said the fire protection tax on the December ballot is crucial to his and other departments survival.

He says if that tax is passed… his… and other chiefs… priorities will be to use the money to pay for 24-hour full-time staffs…. and to replace outdated equipment.

To read more about the tax, click here.

To see what’s on your ballot in December, click here.