Shifts from the City District Fire Department visited the park curation facility in August. From left are CRCNHP Fire Protection Technician Jack McLaughlin, CRNHA Superintendent Carrie Mardorf, David Cadwallader, Darron Clark, Brian Johnson, Douglas Downs, Troy Whittington, Michael Harrell, Josh Pulley, Brent Dupree, Ryan Masters, Roosevelt Washington, CRNHA employees Dustin Fuqua and Timothy VanCleave, Chris Rainer and EJ Rachal.

By Hannah Richardson,

Various shifts of the Natchitoches Fire Department toured the Cane River National Heritage Area’s (CRNHA) headquarters and park curation facility Aug. 14-16.

The primary purpose of the visit was to conduct pre-incident response training for the facility. The facility houses several historical records and artifacts obtained from the area’s plantations, which are vital in preserving Natchitoches’ past. To lose any of these artifacts would be devastating.

The NFD shifts viewed the artifacts stored at the facility.

The firefighters were guided by the facilities fire protection engineer who led each shift on a tour of the facility. “Each crew came one day at a time with their apparatus, or fire trucks, for a tour of the facility,” said fire protection intern Jack McLaughlin, who helped guide the crews. “They all seemed to be in awe about the history we keep here, because it’s their history. Now, it’s not just a building, or another fire or just another job; it’s their history and they’re really invested in keeping it safe.” McLaughlin and other employees showed the firefighters the artifacts while also discussing the best courses of action in case of a fire, such as learning the layout of the building and the many tight spaces it has, where to lay tarps to prevent artifacts from getting water or smoke damage, how to deal with insulated safes containing high risk CDs and other types of data and more. Some of the artifacts shown include old store records, doors and bedframes, movie props, metal-cased shotgun shells and antique fire extinguishers.

The park curation facility houses several artifacts,
including this antique fire extinguisher.

“Our two most important objectives in response are life safety and property conservation,” said NFD Training/Safety Officer Michael Sesvold. “Getting a firsthand look at the inside of the facility provides each firefighter with a mental floor plan and could aid them in the event we were called to the facility for a fire. Having seen the layout will better prepare our men for search and rescue operations. Additionally several items at the facility are historic and provide insight to our local history, so as we work to preserve property during a fire, we can better understand the historical importance of these items and ways to secure them in the event of a fire.”

With this knowledge of the facility’s layout and the importance of what the building holds, the NPD is now adequately prepared to save as many artifacts as possible in case the building catches on fire.

“While we would never put property conservation in front of life safety, especially our own, we do commit to using every possible resource available to protect our community from loss and damage created by fire,” said Sesvold. “This mission starts with planning and training for what we hope will never happen, however we stand ready if it does.”