The facade is familiar yet out of place: a classic brick fire station with those iconic red doors, just off I-12 in rural Livingston Parish. Behind it, though, isn’t a standard fire station, but a sprawling 110,000-square-foot facility where around 450 employees manufacture top-of-the-line tankers, platforms and other vehicles for fire departments from San Francisco to New York City.
Founder Chris Ferrara came up with the idea in the 1970s when he was a volunteer firefighter in Central. To help save money, he and the other firefighters built a new tanker truck themselves, sourcing the parts wherever they could find them. In doing so, he also found a niche.
Ferrara started his fledgling company first as a distributor of firefighting equipment and parts. But by the late 1980s, the business had grown to its massive current location, building entire fleets of vehicles for municipal departments, as well as vehicles designed to handle industrial fires or even off-road missions to extinguish wildfires.
In 2017, the business was purchased by Milwaukee-based REV Group, which owns around 30 brands making everything from shuttle buses to ambulances. The sale price wasn’t disclosed, but at the time, Ferrara claimed an annual revenue of about $140 million.
Following the announcement, Chris Ferrara stepped down as CEO and has taken on an advisory role. But his business continues to operate at the Livingston facilities under the now-recognizable Ferrara name.
After Sept. 11, Ferrara donated a $500,000 fire truck, dubbed the “Spirit of Louisiana,” to the New York Fire Department. It joins a fleet of Ferrara trucks in the Big Apple, including more than 70 aerial ladder trucks and five heavy rescue units—one for each borough.
This article was originally published in the November 2018 issue of 225 Magazine. Click here to read about more from the Made in Baton Rouge cover story.