BELLE CHASSE, La. --
Tuesday was graduation day for 61 firefighters who will become the first professionals to staff all 12 firehouses in Plaquemines Parish.
The trainees graduated after completing 240 hours of training and receiving six certifications. They will man the parish’s fire stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Until now, the parish operated under the protection of an all-volunteer system.
Voters approved a one-percent sales tax increase in 2009 to fund the paid positions. The paid firefighters will work in conjunction with the volunteer system already in place.
Supporters argued the addition of professional firefighters would offer greater protection and could lead to lower property tax rates.
Each fire station will have two paid operators working at all times, according to parish officials.
Copyright 2010 by WDSU.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.