Hurricane-Ravaged Rescue Stations Still Struggling

"A FEMA official who can make a decision - that's what we want in our Christmas stocking."

That's what the Harrison County, Miss. fire marshal said is at the top of Gulf coast firefighters' Christmas list.

The girls left town months ago, but Katrina and Rita wreaked havoc on fire and EMS stations, wiping out many departments and leaving personnel to struggle to survive.

Fire officials in the hurricane-ravaged regions say they are frustrated by the mounds of federal red tape, and don't know when they'll see sunshine again.

Firefighters have a new definition for FEMA (federal employees missing in action).

"A few weeks after Katrina, FEMA came by and inspected the stations and looked at the damage. They said they sympathized with us, and would work on a solution," said Fire Marshal George M. Mixon. "That's the last we've seen...We're down here spinning our wheels waiting for the government to make a decision..."

Two stations in Harrison County were destroyed, while five others are damaged. Apparatus sit on slabs or in pastures, unprotected from the weather.

"Just getting doors on some of the fire houses would lift the spirit in the community