THE POST-SIGNAL / Steve Bandy
Crowley Fire Chief Jody Viator spoke to members of the Crowley Lions Club recently on the work involved in maintaining the city’s Class 2 fire rating and other issues.
Working on rating
The Crowley Fire Department will undergo fire rating testing next year and is working hard to maintain its current Class 2 rating, according to Fire Chief Jody Viator.
Viator, a 30-year veteran of the local department, was guest speaker for the recent meeting of the Crowley Lions Club.
A native of Abbeville, he joined the CFD in 1989. “My goal back then was to stay for 20 years,” he said. “It’s been 30.”
Viator said the Crowley Fire Department has maintained a Class 2 rating for a number of years — “since Russel (Meche) was chief,” he said.
“If we were to go from a Class 2 to a Class 3, it would cost the average homeowners in Crowley $60 to $70 more a month in fire insurance premiums.”
Fire departments are rated 1 through 10, with 1 being the best and 10 the worst. The lower your department’s fire rating, the lower your insurance premiums.
“There are very few Class 1 departments in the state,” Viator said. “It’s all about manpower and we simply can’t afford it.”
Viator pointed out that a starting firefighter makes $2,100 a month “and he has to get Haz-Mat and Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 certified within a year or we let him go.”
After a year, the firefighter receives a $500 monthly stipend from the state.
“Our operating budget for the year is $2.6 million — $2.3 million of that goes to salaries and fringe,” he said.
Asked about the Central Fire Station, Viator was not shy about voicing his opinion.
“I think it should be demolished,” he said. “It’s not functional.”
The building, he said, was built in the late 1940s with no air conditioning. Adding air conditioning has caused the un-insulated wall to sweat and mold, he explained.
In addition, “Our trucks are getting bigger and bigger and just barely fit in this building. Besides which, we have to back in. It would be nice to have a station situated to where we could drive into and out of it.”
Viator went on to say that the living quarters upstairs are now deserted and have been for about three years. On-duty firefighters are living in the former medical offices behind the station.
“I know this building looks nice from the outside and a lot of people consider it ‘historical,’ but it’s not cost efficient,” Viator said. “It wouldn’t be cheap to fix.”
He estimated that a new fire station would cost between $1.5 million and $2 million.