Dispatch from New Orleans | VailDaily.com

Dispatch from New Orleans

Matt Zalaznick

Michael Spadt, Lincoln, Neb., search and rescue task force leader, left, listens to safety officer Pat Borer's report as they conduct a house-to-house search for survivors on Bel Air Road behind the 17th Street Canal levee in New Orleans, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is keeping an eye on Hurricane Rita. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Editor’s note: Greg Treece, a volunteer firefighter with the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, is stationed for two weeks at a firehouse in Plaquemines Parish, La., southeast of New Orleans. He is phoning and e-mailing updates on his experiences in relief efforts there. Treece is the information services director for Colorado Mountain News Media, the Vail Dailys parent company. BELLE CHASSE, La. – The fire departments southeast of New Orleans lost their fire trucks and other equipment, and many firefighters lost their homes. Even so, they are still needed to deal with emergencies in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Greg Treece, a volunteer firefighter with the Greater Eagle Fire department, is one of many firefighters from across Colorado and the U.S. who are filling in. Treece is stationed in a town called Belle Chasse, about 10 miles southeast of New Orleans in Plaquemines Parish, two-thirds of which, Treece says, is still underwater. Treece and the other firefighters are now the neighborhood fire department. “There is a lot of destruction, there’s no doubt about that,” Treece said in a patchy cell-phone conversation Thursday afternoon. “There are trees down everywhere, roofs blown off, siding ripped off.” Belle Chasse is right along the Mississippi River. It flooded when water overran the banks and has yet to return to normal. Marshy Plaquemines Parish is Louisiana’s southernmost parish, located where the Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico. In Belle Chasse, the water has receded, but rather than residents going to work and going about their daily lives, the predominant activity is rebuilding the city, Treece said. “There are people here,” he said. “People are getting back to their routine, but they’ll have a lot to catch up. It will take a long time to get to everything.”Everybody’s pitching in trying to get stuff done,” he said. The fire station, which has electricity, water and air-conditioning, is also a distribution center for food, ice and other supplies. Treece arrived on Thursday and got right to work, he said. “We spent time distributing water, MREs and ice to contract workers, residents – anybody’s who’s here,” he said. MREs are instant meals used by the military. But residents have been returning the favors. “One resident came with a big pot of gumbo,” Treece said. As for Hurricane Rita, which Thursday was more powerful than Katrina was when it hit the Gulf Coast, Treece said people aren’t overly concerned about it. But there are evacuation plans in case the storm hits Louisiana, he said. Assistant Editor for Local News Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or mzalaznick@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado