Monday, February 12, 2007

East Hancock VFD

6/30 Bay to benefit with merger of city, volunteer fire departments

Bay St. Louis is expected to inherit an additional firefighting operation to serve part of the city's newly annexed area under an agreement pending with the county.

Both governments agreed in principle to merge operations of the East Hancock Volunteer Fire District with the Bay St. Louis Fire Department. The East Hancock department is located near the intersection of Washington Street and Chapman Drive.

The deal would be a windfall for Bay St. Louis. Until now, the East Hancock department has collected a 4-mill tax from homeowners and businesses in the area, and reportedly has more than $400,000 in cash that would go to the city. The department's separate millage collection should cease once the department becomes part of the city, said Hancock County Assessor/Collector Jimmie Ladner Jr.

The department also has three fire trucks and property for a new station planned on Highway 603.

The East Hancock department has 23 firefighters, all volunteers. Although city councilmen and county supervisors apparently favor the merger, the district's top firefighter said the department was unaware of the agreement.

"This was a big surprise to us," East Hancock Fire Chief A.J. Arceneaux said Wednesday.

He said the fire district had considered using its cash surplus to operate the department another two or three years.

The department provides fire protection to an area running north to the Bayou La Croix bridge. Formerly under county jurisdiction, the area has since been annexed. The exact number of residents living there since Hurricane Katrina is not known.

Attorneys are now beginning work on a merger agreement. "We're just starting the process," said Hancock County Attorney Ronnie Artigues. "So far, all the communication has been between the fire department and the city of Bay St. Louis."

The merger comes at a time of top leadership dearth for the Bay St. Louis Fire Department.

Fire Chief Robert Gavagnie recently announced his retirement and no recommendation for a replacement has come before the City Council.

Details also remain sketchy on staffing the city's new operation once the merger occurs. It's unclear whether some of the volunteer department members will be rolled into the city department.

The county previously made a parcel of land available for the East Hancock department to build a new fire station on Highway 603, near the county Child Development Center. That property also would become part of the merger.

"There was a plan to put the station in," Arceneaux said. "All we're going to do now is give them the blueprints, I imagine."

6/27 A note from their Chief:

Just a note to give you the bad news... The East Hancock FD will be shutting down operations on 01 September 2007, having served continously since 1978. All services are to be supplied by the City of Bay St. Louis from that point on.

Many of our members will continue to serve the communities with the Bayside, Clermont Harbor and West Hancock Departments.

I thank you for your support since the storm and for your heartfelt service and dedication to the people of Hancock County. Please know that you have made a major and lasting difference in many lives!

Thanks again,


Come by our temporary station at 10316 Chapman Road, Bay St. Louis, call 228-466-3932 or email

East Hancock Fire Department is a MS Insurance Comission Class "8" rated district, the highest rating an all volunteer department can attain.
Our personnel are constantly striving to further their knowledge and training as well as obtaining state of the art equipment to better serve our community and neighbors. Our people come from all walks of life and believe in "giving back to the community".

Our Department provides 1st out Mutual Aid to the Bayside, Cleremont Harbor and West Hancock Fire Departments, as well as the Cities of Bay St. Louis and Waveland.

3/6 New From Bob - A Plea For His County:
Now imagine going through your own town... and nothing is, as you knew it was yesterday. You have no grocery stores. They all closed overnight. IF you want groceries, get on the interstate and drive 20 miles. Restaurants? Yep they're out there. But they've had to raise their prices drastically. Remember your 250% insurance increase? Business' insurance rose almost 1500%! Not to mention that the labor pool has diminished. Oh ya, we have all kinds of people here now, but few actually lived here prior to the storm. There’s all kinds of panhandlers, fly by night contractors, drug dealers from the northern reaches that relocated to the land of opportunity... Can you imagine McDonald's paying a $500 sign on bonus and $200 per week bonus for staying with them? And they still have trouble hiring! All the local folk who can and want to work are. Many of the people in my town claiming "no jobs" aren't from here. That's another part that's eating people up... what little is left of the town that we knew is being scooped up by out-of-towners for condos, casinos and "high end" use. Locals are being priced out of what's left of their ancestral homes.

So yes, depression and despair is still a problem. People are tired of others trying to take advantage of their situation, and being screwed by the system. Quite a few have smoked gun barrels. Others have just given up and died. Others still have aged 20 years in less than a year and a half.

Fire companies from all over have done admirable work in Harrison County, to the point of helping members of full time Departments rebuild their homes. But this hasn't spread into the volunteer community. We've been pretty much left out of the loop for government and private assistance other than what HOO did (when it was really HOO) and the "Adopt a Firehouse Program". The full time departments in Hancock County (all 3) received cash grants from DuPont and a few other corporations. The 9 volunteer Departments did not.

I am not complaining, by any means. The kindness shown by the organizations that have helped us out is phenomenal and I am extremely grateful that they found a place in their hearts for us. The need is still there, and that's the point that needs to be made.

New Orleans ain't the only place hurting!

From Florida all the way through Texas, Katrina and Rita killed maimed and ruined people. Homes, Towns and Families will NEVER be the same again. Even in my own state, the attitude in the northern end, with the exception of those who came here and saw firsthand, is "get on with your life; it's been a year and a half". Sure.... glad to... show me how.

First, let me say that I personally am in good shape. I just need to be able to talk about things to keep my sanity levels on an even keel. As far as the Departments go, I can give a reasonable breakdown of the ones in the southern (below Interstate 10). In the Northern end, they’re in pretty good shape to the best of my knowledge, and their names are also listed in here. I can’t say enough about the offers your making, and what they mean to me.

- West Hancock Fire Protection District – Their station is unusable. They have a pole barn (a lean-to made from light poles and corrugated tin) to shelter the apparatus. Their Apparatus is in good shape, and I believe their main need is in general operating costs i.e. fuel etc.

- Claremont Harbor – They lost it all, with the exception of 1 engine. They have 2 donated engines, no station and are basically working out of the Chief’s house. Manning is the biggest problem in their area, and operating costs. Their station was washed out to sea.

- Bayside Volunteer Fire Dept. – They’re in good shape. Rockaway Beach FD (NY) has donated a pumper and tanker to them, and their station is rebuilt. Their biggest problem now is that they’re damn near broke.

- East Hancock Fire Protection District – We have our original engines, but they’re plagued with “Katrina-itis”. They took 4 feet of salt water and the electronic controls for the pumps and transmissions are temperamental at best. We did have a great pumper from CT that was our mainstay, but it was wrecked in a response. The insurance settlement went into replacing other gear we needed. On loan from West Hancock are our Snorkel and an ambulance that we’ve converted into a rescue/command/rehab unit. We could surely use a surplus pumper with at least 1000 gpm and 750 gal tank capacity that has some life left in it. Our station was washed away, and we’re working out of a Corps of Engineers trailer. (Pics are in my “Katrina” folder here)

- Bay St. Louis FD (Municipal) – They have 3 working pumpers, a rescue and are moving into a new house. Individual aid to the members can be used however. Chief Bobby Gavigne can give better details than I can.

- Waveland FD (Municipal) – Received 4 new pumpers and have 2 donated. No stations yet that I’ve heard of and are working out of temporary digs. Needs no known.

In the north end of the county, they lost no equipment that I’m aware of, and have received donations of equipment and supplies. Here they are;

- Diamondhead Fire Dept. (combination)
- Fenton Fire District
- Kiln Fire District
- Post 58 Fire District
- Leetown Fire District

If you can help, please contact the chiefs - they're listed below:
EHFD, Chief Alan Sekinger, Asst. Chief Zeke Hall, 228-466-3932
Bay St. Louis FD, Chief Bobby Gavigne, 228-467-4736
Bayside FD, Asst. Chief Billy Mooneyham, 228-467-5020
West Hancock Fire & Rescue, Chief Kim Jones, 228-533-7847

If any agency is willing to adopt a firehouse, please feel free to get hold of one that I’ve listed, I know they’d appreciate the support.

My main fear this year is in the wildland areas. The timber that cmae down in the county has been curing for better than a year. Some areas are damn near impenetrable as it's stacked so deep. With the fire history of the last 18 months, it could get extremely interesting this spring and summer. We've had to use 90% of the assets in the southern end of this county on just ONE fire. I posted about that on the old site.

Don’t underestimate my appreciation for your support and concern. Being able to talk here has been a mainstay in my dealing with both the storm and its aftereffects. Seeing so much disappear, and so many deaths is less than a 12 hour span, as well as seeing all the lingering effects doing so much to my friends and neighbors is taking a toll. I had very little gray hair before the storm. It’s almost white now.

I’m going to make it. I’m too damn stubborn not to. I have, very probably, the finest available support group and corps of concerned friends and family that anyone can ask for. All of you.

Thank you for that.

2/17 From Bob himself! He sounds like a very nice man...
Our main needs right now are for a decent pumper truck, with a 750 to 1000 gallon tank. Age is unimportant. We had a wonderful unit from CT that unfortunately was involved in an accident and was totaled out by the insurance people. The bucks from that went to our Board of Commissioners, and it's gone into other equipment. Our older units were nickel and dimeing us to death, and were taken over by a small Arkansas department that literally had nothing to work with. Kim Jones (Chief, West Hancock FD) has allowed us the use of Tower 1, and another ambulance for use as a rescue unit.
Fuel - 1000 gal/mo.
Administrative items (you know the drill)
Donations for a new "real" station house.

Our people are getting back on their feet, and household items are in reasonably good supply. There's still many needy people that can use them, and the collection units that you've seen to date, as well as the Hancock County food pantry would welcome them.

I actually found your site by accident, while scanning through looking for pictures other than what I already had. I rode the storm out in my house, and was swimming in my living room (7 feet of water) trying to keep our 4 German Shepherds alive. We took the wind fine ( the house also made it through Camille) but never in our lives expected a 40 foot wall of water to smack our town. As far as the immediate aftermath, our people were doing whatever they could, to the point of giving away our own medications to those that needed the same meds and dosages. After 3 weeks, I finally evacuated with my wife and critters, only to take sick with over 20 staph infections, all antibiotic resistant. Fun, fun, fun...

I just got back into my house 2 days before Christmas. The workmanship was terrible, and we got shafted by our contractor as so many down here have been. But life goes on, and it's improving slowly but surely.

This well known photo shows a rescue that occured during the height of Hurricane KATRINA,
directly accross US Highway 90, from the Hancock County E.O.C. located at the courthouse annex.
Amoung the rescuers in this photo are, Former Asst. Chief Billy Mooneyham, then Captain Steve
LaRocque, and Firefighter Wade Hicks of the EHFD. Also amoung the rescuers were members of
the Bayside Fire District, Bay St. Louis Police Department, and the Hancock County Sheriff's Office

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