Gretna residents are excited about the new state-of-the-art fire station being built at 1200 Lafayette Street, although it is creating a slight traffic jam with the loss of a lane on busy Lafayette Street due to construction. Construction is due to be completed in late October or November.

We went straight to Fire Chief Mike Labruzza to get information about the awesome new structure. “The building is approximately 22,000 square feet with 9,700 square feet of that being the bay area where the trucks are housed. The new station will be able to house eight fire trucks,” he said. 

“The station will be equipped to sleep 20 firefighters and will have a Physical Fitness Room. The special Training Room have installed the latest audio/video equipment and can double as a Cafeteria during hurricanes or other events.

“The building will include Administrative Offices as well as a Conference Room that can double as a Command Center during hurricanes and other events.

“The new station will be built to a wind speed of 154 MPH and equipped with a Fire Sprinkler System and an emergency generator which will power the entire station during power outages.  

The cost of this awesome new addition to Gretna’s safety of its people and properties is $6,249,000. The City of Gretna passed a $7,000,000 Bond Issue to be repaid from existing fire millages.

The City bought the property after Hurricane Katrina from the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Shop and applied for FEMA Grant to build a new station. The City came close, but was not awarded one of the fire station grants. In about 2013, the City applied to the state for Capital Outlay Funding and was given a Priority 5 Status in May of 2015 for $5,500,000 dollars. In 2016 due to budgetary crisis in the state, the capital funding disappeared. The City then decided to attempt to bond out the money and passed the bond issue so the badly needed station could be built.    

“This new station replaces the fire station originally built in 1948 at 1136 Lafayette Street by volunteers, which was added on to several times since then.  Fire equipment has grown in size through the years, and the current bay area where the trucks are housed is very tight and unsafe,” Chief Labruzza said.

In July of 1841, the David Crockett Steam Fire Company No. 1 was founded by 27 men of the village of Mechanickham, organized to protect their families and homes from the ravages of fire. The fire organization was called the Gretna Fire Company and operated as a bucket brigade for three years. In 1844, a hand pumper was purchased which drew water from wells dug in the streets and back yard cisterns.

A decade later, their first fire station was built close to the river. With no levees to the river, there was constant flooding. The fire station was moved to 205 Lafayette Street, presently the home of the Louisiana State Fire Museum, and a part of the Gretna Historic Society Museum Complex.

In 1874 the company changed its name to David Crockett Steam Fire Company No. 1. The new name was two-fold. It reflected a new generation in firefighting equipment and honored Davy Crockett, the legendary hero of the Alamo.

Although a hero as a leader in battle and a leader in our nation’s government as a three-term congressman, he is best remembered as he and his courageous volunteers joined others at the Alamo to fight for the independence of the people of Texas. The Battle of the Alamo occurred in 1836 which coincidentally was the year in which the Village of Mechanickham, now the City of Gretna was founded.

A hero not just for what he did, but for how he accomplished what he did. His deeds were done on a volunteer basis and not just to assist his immediate neighbors, but along with others like him to assist and protect those he would never know. The company still uses the motto it adopted from Davy Crockett, “Be Sure You’re Right; Then go Ahead.”

Although much time and history have passed, some things have not changed, like having ample funds for operations. The company purchased the steamer, but couldn’t afford to purchase nor care for a horse to pull the pumper. The firemen had to pull the pumper by hand to the scene of the fire. Gegenheimer, the baker located across the street from the firehouse often loaned his horse to the firemen to pull the steam pumper to the fires. It was said that the horse would get most excited when it heard the fire alarm ring, ready to go to the fire!

In 1983, the original Crockett firehouse at 205 Lafayette Street, and the 1876 steam pumper, were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

David Crockett Fire Company was known for their parades. They would pull the old steamer down the streets of Gretna. Members would be dressed in their formal uniform consisting of a long-sleeve red wool shirt with pearl buttons, a wide white belt, and a white old-time fire helmet. The uniform is still used today for parades and members’ funerals.

The other consistency is the human aspect of the members of the David Crockett Fire Company. As with the original bucket brigade, the members of today still join together to protect from the ravages of fires. They leave the comfort of their homes, give of their time and energies, and risk their safety and lives. The founders and early members as well as those who have succeeded them have made it possible for the Crockett Company to bear the unique distinction of being the Oldest Continuously Active Volunteer Fire Company in the U.S.A.!