James Edwards spoke before the Parish Council at its meeting Dec. 19 about concerns he has regarding Fire District 1 in Cloutierville.
On Sept. 9 a fire at his lumber facility burned 20 percent of his inventory, which he said was due to a breakdown in the responsiveness and reliability of FD 1. He claimed that when he called the chairman of the board for FD 1, the chief and assistant chief they were all unresponsive. According to Edwards, a Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s deputy called other fire districts in the area, who also failed to respond. The deputy had to call his superiors, who then made the fire districts respond to the fire.
Edwards also claimed that none of the members of FD 1 have the required 12 hours of training. When he got a group of people interested in becoming volunteer firefighters for FD 1, he was told by the training department at LSU that they’ve been unable to reach anyone from FD1 to get them to participate in the training.
Edwards claimed he has a long list of people willing to volunteer, but only after the leadership is changed.
Chris Posey, a former district chief, asked the Council to expunge the old members on the FD 1 Board and remove them effective immediately.
“The oldest ones that have been down there the longest are the ones breaking the rules,” said Edwards.
Other accusations include:
Unlike other fire districts, FD 1 has a rule where any interested person has to interview before they can join.
Keep fire trucks sitting at personal residences
Accused Edwards and others of trespassing when they tried to put a donated water tank at the station in Cloutierville because they “didn’t want the tank there,” according to Edwards
Failure to file and send fire reports to Baton Rouge (FD 1 hasn’t made a report in almost 2 years according to Edwards)
One of the worst FD ratings in the state, which inflates insurance rates and can prevent area schools from receiving grants
Out of 14 trucks between 6 stations, only 3 will start
The decision was made to build a bathroom, an $8,500 project, when there’s fire trucks that don’t run
Beepers alerting FD 1 members of a fire during a fish fry held last year were ignored. According to Edwards, the fire was at the assistant chief’s neighbor’s house. “This is the reason why other districts are mad. They aren’t going to their own fires,” said Edwards.
Joseph C. Prothro, of FD 1, wrecked one of the district’s brand new fire trucks in September, 2015, which he was driving in Rapides Parish. Prothro was cited for careless operation of the fire truck.
No bids taken for buying trucks, simply using the same guy they always do
Parish President Rick Nowlin said they’ve replaced five of the seven board members for FD 1, primarily for the reasons Edwards mentioned at the meeting.
“He’s right about a lot of what he’s saying and it’s a problem,” said Nowlin. “There are some significant problems down there. We’re working with the new board members and since we’ve been advised there’s still problems, we need to seek more improvement quickly or we’ll have to take appropriate action. I may have recommendations at our next meeting.”