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Firefighters touted at council meeting

Last Modified: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 12:21 PM

By Justin B. Phillips / American Press

Bookended by topics regarding the Lake Charles Fire Department and packed with local residents, Tuesday’s City Council agenda meeting barely focused on ordinances and resolutions.

With much of the city’s recent contract talks with the Fire Department quiet over the last few weeks, Mayor Randy Roach provided those in attendance with a reminder of just what the department does for the city. He talked about a recent fire on Swanee Street and how the members of the department demonstrated just what firefighters mean to residents.

“The men and women of the Lake Charles Fire Department are very professional in the way in which they approach their job,” Roach said. “If you’ve ever watched their work, it’s like the chief said: It’s like a team doing a high level of performance.”

Fire Chief Keith Murray spoke about the fire and the actions performed at the scene. A resident rescued from the blaze attended the meeting.

“When you get this many men on the scene, it’s like a football play or a basketball play. If everyone on the scene is not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, the opportunity, the moment to save somebody’s life, slides through your fingers,” Murray said.

He described how the resident was pulled from the fire, not breathing and without an ambulance on the scene, and how the firefighters performed life-saving efforts.

“Every person sitting in the audience took a part in this,” Murray said. “If any person had not done what they were supposed to do that night, he would not be here today.”

Roach gave certificates to more than a dozen employees who responded to the fire.

Roach also recognized members of the city’s recreation department. He talked about the success the department had hosting Halloween and Christmas events at the Civic Center. Helen Lewis, recreation and parks director, thanked a number of her employees responsible for the events. A focus was placed on the costumes, evident in the handful of kids in the audience dressed up as mice while others were dressed as the Grinch. After several certificates were handed out and individual employees recognized, Lewis summed up the department’s goal in the city as simply as she could.

“That’s what the department is all about — making children smile so one day they grow up to be wholesome, healthy kids,” Lewis said.

District Fire Chief Chris Carroll, liaison for International Association of Fire Fighters Local 561, spoke at the end of the meeting about the recent preliminary contract submitted to the council. At that particular meeting, Carroll gave the council the basic outline of a contract in hopes of sparking negotiations. With the earlier portion of the meeting focusing on the department and some of the department’s recent heroics, Carroll said it was the perfect segue into discussing the contract.

“After the story that happened tonight, it sold me on it. We have a great group of guys and what they did in this case, they do all the time,” Carroll said. “The thing about having a contract, it would be one less burden on their mind when they’re doing the job that they do day in and day out.”

Roach led a lengthy discussion about finding suitable ways to give the council a chance to review details of a possible contract. Roach and councilman Rodney Geyen both recommended the union rely on a memorandum of understanding with the city to help the process move along.

After several council members spoke about the issue, Carroll reminded the group that the recent contract was just a preliminary contract. He described it as a “wish list” for the department and said the purpose was to get the conversation started with the city. Eventually, Roach and Carroll agreed to schedule a meeting to discuss the details in the preliminary contract.

The upcoming regular agenda meeting will once again focus on providing the Public Works Department with equipment and vehicles. The council will appoint chairmen to review bids for items and will accept the lowest responsible bids for others. The council will also consider an ordinance amending Chapter 8 of the city code regarding electronic cigarettes.

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