A groundbreaking was recently held for the new Gretna fire station to be located at 1200 Lafayette St. The current station, dedicated May 3, 2015, as the David Crockett Fire Company Anthony “Tony” Labruzza Memorial Fire Station was built in 1948 and is seriously outgrown and outdated.
The star of the groundbreaking who got all of the attention was not the gold shovels, but a cute little mascot, Jake Michael Meerman, the two-year-old grandson of Fire Company Chief Michael (Mike) Labruzza.
The red shirt he wore for the event was made by Mike Labruzza’s mother, Katherine Labruzza so that Mike, when he was a little boy could match his father, Anthony Labruzza. The uniform is the traditional red shirt uniform worn today by the firemen.
Jake, the son of Michelle Labruzza Meerman and Joseph Meerman was diagnosed with B Lymphoblastic Leukemia in January 2021. He is being treated at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans and appears to be responding well to treatment at this time.
Coincidentally, Slade Turner, the 17 month-old great-grandson of deceased Crockett Fire Chief Bernard Covell Jr. is suffering from Neuroblastoma Pediatric Cancer and is also being treated at Children’s Hospital. A prayer chain has been circulating around Gretna for both of the fire department boys and more prayers are needed.
City of Gretna officials and members of the fire department picked up gold shovels to break ground for the new $6,249,000 fire station. Money for the station will be paid back over 20 years using existing fire millage tax money. The contract calls for the completion of the building in one year.
Speakers at the ceremony included Mayor Belinda Constant, Fire Chief Mike Labruzza, Councilman at large Wayne Rau, Councilman Jackie Berthelot and Fire Company President Mark Cambre Jr.
“The lot size of the new fire station site is 160’ x 151’ and will adequately support the 22,715 sq. ft. building. The bay area, where the fire trucks are housed will be 9,690 sq. ft. and the two-story living quarters which includes administrative space will be 13,025 sq. ft.,” Fire Chief Mike Labruzza said.
“The Living Quarters and Administration Area includes a training room, commercial kitchen, conference room, fitness room and an office, as well as a room to wash fire gear, a room for an air compressor for refilling air cylinders for breathing apparatus, a room for testing and repairing breathing apparatus and an area to decontaminate equipment after calls.
“The Bay Area can house eight trucks. Although we will not have eight trucks in there at all times, this will allow us to bring trucks from other stations during major hurricanes, as this building has the highest wind rating of any of our buildings, which is a 154 mph wind rating.
“The building will be equipped with life safety equipment such as heat and smoke sensors as well as a fire sprinkler system. The entire building will be equipped with backup generator power so that the building remains operational if electricity is lost.
According to old 1940s news articles, Leo Rose, foreman of the David Crockett Fire Steam Company No. 1 reported in July of 1947 that plans were underway to erect a new fire station on Lafayette and 12th Streets.
That firehouse is the presently used station that was dedicated on Aug. 15, 1948. It was called the Crockett Substation and built at a cost of $25,000. The land had been purchased from the Police Jury of the Parish of Jefferson for $10. Work started on the fire station in February 1948, taking six months to build using a labor force of firemen.
The events of dedication day began with a parade from Central Station at 205 Lafayette St. to the new substation, led by Boy Scouts Troop No. 64 from Gretna who conducted a flag-raising ceremony prior to the dedication. Also, heading the parade was the New Orleans Police Band, visiting fire companies and members of the David Crockett Fire Company and the auxiliary.
After arriving at the new location, there was a blessing of the pumpers and fire station by Rev. Bernard Hammerstein, pastor of St. Joseph Church. Police Chief Beauregard H. Miller was Master of Ceremonies. Talks were made by Fire Chief Reuben B. Hock, officers of the company and Mrs. Victor Walter, auxiliary president.
Chief Miller paid tribute to the Crockett members and the auxiliary for their work on fire fighting and the construction of the new station. Funds to complete the project were obtained from numerous events and popular contributions, with labor done by the members.
According to newspaper articles in 1949, the David Crockett Fire Company added a “chauffer” to the four paid firemen on staff, two at Central Station at 205 Lafayette St., one each at the Crockett Sub-station at Lafayette and 12th Street and the Gould Fire Station. The new driver would be on the night shift at Central Station.
In May of 1950, Crockett celebrated its 109th anniversary with a two-day fair and parade that showed off its three fire engines and the “old pumper used in the early days that was in excellent condition and could still be put in service, if needed.” Lynn Cardon served as general
chairman for the fair that benefitted a remodel at Central Station.
In 1956, news articles indicated that the station was then called the David Crockett Fire Station No. 2. Fire stations have long been a place of local gathering and a center for community events. That certainly seemed to be the case in Gretna. In 1956, the newly formed Midas Carnival Club of Gretna was planning a two-day fair at the firehouse.
The David Crockett Steam Fire Company Number 1, established in 1841, is the Oldest Continuously Active Volunteer Fire Company in the United States. They respond within the incorporated City of Gretna to protect lives and property. They operate five engines, one rescue, one hose tender, one ladder, one reserve ladder, one rescue boat and three ATVs out of four stations.
The response area enjoys a class 2 fire rating which allows Gretna citizens a sizable discount on fire insurance. The new firehouse will add to the sense of safety and security enjoyed by all residents with Gretna’s excellent fire and police departments always on watch.