Police and fire give back in DeRidder historic restoration projects

DERIDDER, LA (KPLC) - Two historic sites in DeRidder may soon become tourist stops.

One is a caboose, a rare one to find these days, according to officials, since only around 40 of them were made in the 60s. The other is a former sawmill house.

But who is doing the work may surprise you ...

Members of the police and fire departments work for the city, but some choose to go above and beyond the call of duty.

For instance, in DeRidder, some of them have chosen to donate their own personal time to restoring two historical sites.

One of them is not a moving train, at least not anymore, but it does sit next to the tracks in memory of its former days.

"This actual caboose was a 337 caboose, so I think it maybe was this area's caboose," said DeRidder Fire Captain Gene Bailey.

Bailey and five others started restoring the caboose over the summer, laying new flooring and hand polishing the interior.

But just down the track, Police Chief Jon Gott and two others in uniform are restoring a former family sawmill home from the early 1900s.

"This is the last one of its type that was here in DeRidder," said Gott.

And they're hoping to turn it into the future "Timber Museum."

"We started on it this summer and just been kind of working on it if we have a few hours in a day to mess with it," said Gott.

It could turn into a friendly competition to see which department can finish first, but volunteers doing the restoration are just grateful to give back.

"The timber industry's a big part of our community. If it wasn't for that and the railroad, DeRidder wouldn't be what it is today. It feels good to do what we can to give back and to salvage a little piece of the history," said Gott.

"It really makes me feel good because this is one thing that I really love to do anyway is restoring things that have fell down and pushed to the wayside and bring it back," said Bailey.

No official completion date is set for the museum, however the caboose could be done by the end of the year.

Officials say they plan to hold an open house when they're finished.

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