SOUTH PARK SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF
BUDDY AND JANE HEBERT

SOUTH PARK FIRE AND RESCUE TEAM


THE JOB OF A FIREMAN HAS BECOME A SOPHISTICATED AND DEMANDING JOB IN TODAY'S WORLD!

GONE  ARE  THE  DAYS  OF  THE VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS (IN MOST CASES) - THE BUCKET BRIGADE PASSING WATER ALONG TO FIGHT A FIRE AND THE FIRE ENGINES PULLED BY A TEAM OF HORSES.

AND THUS WE SAY "THANK YOU"TO ALL THE YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN THAT EACH DAY TAKE ON THE MANY ASPECTS OF A FIRE AND RESCUE TEAM.

I WANT TO THANK LINDA GAUDIO OF THE BEAUMONT FIRE MUSEUM FOR BEING SO HELPFUL IN OBTAINING SO MANY DATES AND INFORMATION FOR THIS ARTICLE.

PRIOR TO  1899,  VOLUNTEER  FIRE FIGHTERS SERVED AREAS OF BEAUMONT IN FIGHTING FIRES. RECORDS INDICATE THAT IN DECEMBER, 1881 PROBABLY THE FIRST FIRE FIGHTING UNIT WAS FORMED WHEN E. L.WILSON ORGANIZED BEAUMONT FIRE COMPANY #1, WITH 18 VOLUNTEERS SERVING AS FIRE FIGHTERS. IN 1887 THE V. WEISS HOOK AND LADDER COMPANY WAS FORMED AND AT THIS TIME THE FIRST VOLUNTEER FIRE CHIEF, ED OGDEN, WAS ELECTED AND WOULD LATER SERVE AS BEAUMONT'S MAYOR.  IN 1891 THE MECHANIC HOSE COMPANY WAS FORMED, WITH EMMETT FLETCHER BEING ELECTED FOREMAN OF THE STATION. AND IN 1892 THE  GILBERT PROTECTION  HOSE COMPANY WAS FORMED WITH FRED PECK BEING IT'S CAPTAIN, WHICH SERVED THE SOUTH PARK AREA OF BEAUMONT, AS WELL AS OTHER AREAS.

BY JUNE 2, 1903 BEAUMONT HAD ITS FIRST COMPLETELY PAID FIRE DEPARTMENT, TOTALLY MOTORIZED - THUS ENDING THE ROLE OF THEVOLUNTEER FIRE FIGHTERS.

IN 1920 SOUTH PARK WAS A NEWLY ANNEXED ADDITION TO BEAUMONT, AND A BOND ISSUE IN THE AMOUNT OF $75,000.00 WAS PASSED TO BUILD TWO NEW FIRE STATIONS - ONE ON GULF STREET NEAR MAGNOLIA PARK - AND THE OTHER A STATION TO BE BUILT AT THE CORNER OF HARRIOT AND SABINE PASS AND KENNETH STREET. (WE ALL KNOW WHERE THE WATER TOWER IS LOCATED IN SOUTH PARK, AND THIS WAS THE LOCATION OF THE FIRE STATION BUILT AT THAT TIME.)

THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW FIRE STATION WAS COMPLETED IN 1924, AND WAS A WOODEN BUILDING, PAINTED GRAY - BUILT TO BLEND IN AS A FAMILY, NEIGHORHOOD DWELLING. THE ENGINE  WAS LOCATED IN THE CENTER SECTION OF THE BUILDING, WITH THE KITCHEN FACILITIES ON ONE SIDE AND THE SLEEPING QUARTERS ON THE OTHER SIDE. THIS STATION HOUSED A 3 MAN CREW, WITH A COMBINATION HOSE AND CHEMICAL ENGINE, WITH CHARLIE WESTMAN BEING THE FIRST CAPTAIN AT THIS SOUTH PARK STATION.

AS A CHILD I THOUGHT THE FIRE STATION AN EXCITING PLACE, AND IT'S FIREFIGHTERS AT THIS SOUTH PARK STATION WERE VERY BRAVE MEN, AND IT WAS ALWAYS EXCITING TO SEE THE BIG RED FIRE ENGINE SITTING IN THE STATION WITH THE DOUBLE DOORS ALWAYS OPENED. I HAD A FRIEND WHO LIVED JUST DOWN THE STREET FROM THE STATION, AND ALTHOUGH IT WAS A LONG WALK FROM MY HOME, I DID MANAGE TO VISIT HER OFTEN.MANY DAYS THE FIREMEN WERE SITTING OUTSIDE THE STATION, AND WERE ALWAYS WILLING TO TALK TO THE YOUNGSTERS ABOUT THE MANY EXCITING ASPECTS OF BEING A FIRE FIGHTER. AND AS I RECALL, THERE WAS ALWAYS A PET DOG LAYING AROUND KEEPING THEM COMPANY.

AND NATURALLY, ANY TIME WE HEARD THE FIRE SIRENS WAILING, IT WAS A VERY EXCITING TIME FOR US AS KIDS, AND IF IT CAME CLOSE TO YOUR HOUSE, WE WERE ALWAYS OUT ON THE SIDE OF THE STREET TRYING TO GET A LOOK AT THE ENGINE AND ITS CREW AS IT WENT BY. THERE WAS ALWAYS ONE OR TWO FIREMEN STANDING ON A SIDE PLATFORM OF THE ENGINE, HOLDING ON, AND I THOUGHT RIDING ON THE FIRE ENGINE IN THIS MANNER WAS INDEED VERY EXCITING.

THE WATER DISTRICT WOULD LATER CONSTRUCT THE WATER TOWER (REFERRED TO AS STANDING PIPES) AT THE REAR OF THE FIRE STATION. THESE ARE RESERVE TOWERS FOR WATER, AND WERE CONSTRUCTED AT THIS LOCATION SO THAT IN THE CASE OF AN EMERGENCY, THE FIRE MEN WOULD ALWAYS BE AVAILABLE TO TURN THE VALVES ON THE TOWERS TO GIVE THE CITIZENS OF SOUTH PARK EMERGENCY WATER.  AND I UNDERSTAND OTHER AREAS  HAD  THESE TOWERS CONSTRUCTED AT THE FIRE STATION SITES.

IN 1949, A NEW, MODERN FIRE STATION WAS BUILT AT THE CORNER OF KENNETH AND BROCKMAN TO ACCOMMODATE THE AREA OF SOUTH PARK, AS WELL AS SURROUNDING AREAS WHEN NEEDED. AND SADLY, THE OLD GRAY, WOODEN FIRE STATION AT HARRIOT AND KENNETH WAS TORN DOWN, AND DRIFTED INTO THE REALMS OF THE FORGOTTEN.  OTHO PLUMMER WAS THEN MAYOR OF THE CITY OF BEAUMONT.

THE  STATION  WOULD  BE  CALLED KENNETH STREET STATION #3, AND IN THE EARLY DAYS WOULD ONLY HOUSE 1 FIRE ENGINE. IT WAS NOT UNTIL THE LATE 1950'S THAT FIRE  STATIONS WOULD  BE  AIR CONDITIONED.

IN MARCH OF 1982, A CONTRACT FOR RENOVATIONS TO THE KENNETH STREET STATION WAS SIGNED, AND AT A COST OF $32,800.00 THE STATION WAS EXTENDED AND MODIFIED TO HOUSE 1 LADDER TRUCK AS WELL AS A FIRE ENGINE (PUMPER), WITH THE RENOVATION BEING COMPLETED IN 1986. FIVE FIREMEN WERE STATIONED AT STATION #3 WITH SLEEPING QUARTERS, A KITCHEN AND GENERAL AREA FOR THE EMPLOYEES.

THERE ARE 3 SHIFTS FOR THE FIRE FIGHTERS - SHIFTS A, B & C - WITH EACH SHIFT WORKING 24 HOURS AND 48 HOURS OFF. EACH SHIFT BEGINS IT'S SHIFT AT 8:00 AM AND ENDS AT 8:00 AM THE FOLLOWING DAY, WHEN THE NEXT SHIFT ARRIVES AND TAKES OVER, MAKING A TOTAL OF 48 HOURS PER WEEK EACH FIRE FIGHTER IS ON DUTY.

EACH SHIFT HAS A CAPTAIN, 2 DRIVERS (1 DRIVING THE PUMPER AND 1 THE LADDER TRUCK) AND 2 FIREFIGHTERS - ALTHOUGH ALL ARE INVOLVED IN FIGHTING A FIRE WHEN THEY ARRIVE ON THE SCENE.

THE CAPTAIN ON EACH SHIFT ACTS AS A SUPERVISOR AT THE STATION AS WELL AS AT THE SCENE OF A FIRE OR ACCIDENT, AND RIDES ON THE FIRE ENGINE GOING TO A MISHAP OR FIRE.  BUT THESE CAPTAINS ANSWER TO A DISTRICT CAPTAIN, WHO IS OVER ALL THE STATIONS. THE DRIVERS NOT ONLY DRIVE THE PUMPER TRUCK (FIRE ENGINE) AND LADDER TRUCKS, BUT OPERATE THE PUMPS AND LADDERS. AND THE FIREMEN ARE THERE TO HELP FIGHT THE FIRES. ALL MUST WORK TOGETHER, AND THEY TAKE THEIR TRAINING  AND RESPONSIBILITIES VERY SERIOUSLY.

LIVING TOGETHER 24 HOURS AT A TIME IN CLOSE QUARTERS TAKES A VERY SPECIAL TYPE PERSON, AND IS INDEED A CHALLENGE. IT TAKES PEOPLE THAT ARE WILLING AND TRY TO WORK AND GET ALONG WITH EACH OTHER. WHILE THEIR WORK IS OF A SERIOUS NATURE, THERE IS ALSO A NEED TO BE RELAXED AND HAVE FUN WITH EACH OTHER. WHILE THEY ARE ~NTENT ON BEING A STRUCTURED GROUP, THEY ALSO KNOW HOW TO HAVE FUN ON THEIR JOB. AND EACH STATION AND GROUP OF FIREFIGHTERS SEEM TO TAKE ON THEIR OWN PERSONALITY. AND THE MOST IMPORTANT - HAVING TRUST IN YOUR FELLOW FIREFIGHTER. TO KNOW YOU CAN DEPEND ON THE MAN WORKING BESIDE AND BEHIND YOU IN A MAJOR EVENT.

A FIRE AND RESCUE JOB CAN ALSO BE A VERY STRESSFUL JOB, AND EACH MAN OR WOMAN MUST FIND HIS OR HER OWN WAY TO RELAX AND TRY TO GET OVER THE STRESS OF THE JOB.

SHIFT "A" AT THE KENNETH STREET STATION CONSISTS  OF DANIEL  PALMER, CAPTAIN. RICK MATTHEWS AND BRYAN WATERS, DRIVERS AND FIREFIGHTERS K. W. HICKS AND STEVEN HAYNES. BRYAN WATERS IS THE LONGEST EMPLOYED OF THE "A" SHIFT, WITH 22 YEARS OF SERVICE.

SHIFT "B" IS HEADED UP BY TOMMY MAYS, CAPTAIN - WITH 30 YEARS OF SERVICE WITH THE DEPARTMENT. DRIVERS ARE DAVID HUGHES (A SOUTH PARK GRADUATE) DRIVING THE FIRE ENGINE, AND DEAN LANCLOS DRIVING THE LADDER TRUCK. AND FIREFIGHTERS CHARLES PAUL AND JIMMIE LANDRAL.

BILLY WARE IS CAPTAIN OF SHIFT "C", WITH ZACK LUCAS DRIVING THE LADDER TRUCK AND J. WILLIAMS THE PUMPER TRUCK. THE FIRE FIGHTERS ARE DARIUS WINTON AND A NEW MEMBER OF THE KENNETH STREET STATION, SAMANTHA SPRAGLIN - THE FIRST LADY TO JOIN THE GROUP OF FIRE FIGHTERS AT STATION #3. AND I UNDERSTAND THAT SAMANTHA DOES HER JOB QUITE WELL,THANK YOU!

AND I CAN IMAGINE DRIVING ONE OF THOSE BIG FIRE TRUCKS CAN BE AN ADVENTURE IN ITSELF. RECENTLY STATION #3 MEMBERS DECIDED TO HAVE THEIR OWN SPECIAL T-SHIRTS MADE UP WITH THE LOGO "SOUTH PARK FIRE FIGHTERS" ON EACH SHIRT. WAY TO GO!!!

BUT TODAY'S FIRE FIGHTER IS KNOWN AS A FIRE AND RESCUE TEAM MEMBER, AS FIGHTING FIRES IS ONLY A SMALL PORTION OF THEIR DAILY WORK. THE FIRE FIGHTING AND RESCUE COURSE TAKES APPROXIMATELY 10 WEEKS, AND REQUIRES 20 HOURS OF CONTINUING EDUCATION AND TRAINING EACH YEAR, AND EACH 4 YEARS THE TEAM MEMBERS ARE TESTED ON THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND EMERGENCY CARE ATTENDANCE.

THERE HAS BEEN A BIG CHANGE IN THE ROLE OF THE FIREFIGHTER.  THEY ARE NOW TRAINED TO HANDLE MEDICAL SITUATIONS, FIGHT CHEMICAL FIRES AND LEAKS, HANDLE ACCIDENTS, UNDERWATER DIVING AND EVEN AT TIMES PARTICIPATE  IN A BOMB SEARCH (ALTHOUGH THEY DO NOT DISMANTLE BOMBS.) EACH STATION HAS ITS OWN DIVER.

THE FIREFIGHTER IS NOW KNOWN AS THE FIRST RESPONDER, AS THEY ARE USUALLY THE FIRST TO ARRIVE ON A SCENE. ALL PERSONNEL ARE TRAINED TO HANDLE MEDICAL MATTERS AND WITH MORE FIRE STATIONS BEING SPACED AROUND BEAUMONT, 9 OUT OF 10 TIMES THEY WILL BE THE FIRST TO ARRIVE ON THE SCENE OF ANY MEDICAL SITUATION. THEY HAVE THE TRAINING AND EQUIPMENT TO STABILIZE A PATIENT UNTIL PARAMEDICS ARRIVE. THEY ARE USUALLY THE FIRST LINK WITH A VICTIM.  THEY CAN ADMINISTER OXYGEN - PART OF THEIR EQUIPMENT IS A A.E.D., A MACHINE FOR CARDIAC ARREST PATIENTS. THEY ARE TRAINED TO HANDLE MEDICAL PATIENTS, CAR WRECKS, HAZARD MATERIALS AND EVEN DIVERSIFIED INTO AN ARSON GROUP, WHICH IS A SEPARATE DIVISION OF FIREFIGHTERS.  EACH SHIFT USUALLY RESPONDS TO ONE OR TWO CALLS PER SHIFT - WHETHER IT BE A FIRE, MEDICAL, PUBLIC ASSISTANCE OR AN AUTO WRECK.

AND CONTRARY TO BELIEF, THE FIRE FIGHTERS ARE NOT SITTING AROUND PLAYING CHECKERS (ALTHOUGH THEY DO AT TIMES) OR WATCHING TV - THEIR JOB IS CONSTANT INSERVICE TRAINING - PRE PLAN INSPECTIONS, BEING PREPARED FOR ANY SITUATION THAT MIGHT ARISE.  THEY ARE CONSTANTLY GOING OUT AND INSPECTING  THE  LARGER  BUILDINGS  AT LAMAR UNIVERSITY, MOBIL  OIL  AND  LARGE BUILDINGS AROUND OUR AREA - MAKING SURE THEY ARE PREPARED FOR WHATEVER MIGHT OCCUR IN THESE AREAS - GETTING TO KNOW THE BUILDINGS AND SURROUNDINGS. THERE IS A SPECIAL RESCUE UNIT, WHEN A FIRE ENGINE AND THE FIRE DEPARTMENT SUBURBAN GO OUT ON A CALL ON A MEDICAL SITUATION, KNOWN AS ADVANCED LIFE FORCE. AND GUESS WHO PAINTS ALL THE FIRE HYDRANTS AND KEEP THEM IN WORKING ORDER?  AND KEEPS THE FIRE ENGINES WASHED AND POLISHED TO PERFECTION!

I RECENTLY DROPPED IN ON STATION #3 TO FIND THE SENIOR MEMBER, BRYAN WATERS HAVING COOKED THE NOON MEAL AND JUST FINISHING UP WASHING THE DISHES (EVIDENTLY SENIORITY DOES NOT COUNT!) BUT I ENJOYED MY VISIT WITH THE GUYS, AND LISTENING TO SOME OF THEIR STORIES AND ADVENTURES.

I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO TALK WITH TOMMY MAYS, WHO ADVISED HE HAD TWO BROTHERS THAT WERE FIREFIGHTERS, AND AFTER VISITING WITH THEM ON THE JOB ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS  AND LISTENING TO THEM TALK ABOUT THEIR WORK, HE DECIDED THAT A FIRE FIGHTER WAS THE OCCUPATION THAT WAS RIGHT FOR HIM. AND THE JOB HAS BEEN VERY REWARDING AND THE FELLOWSHIP WITH HIS CO-WORKERS VERY ENJOYABLE.

THEY ALL AGREED THAT MAKING A CALL, WHETHER A FIRE, CHEMICAL HAZARD OR MEDICAL - IT WAS A SCARY SITUATION EACH TIME, AND YOUR ADRENALINE WAS ALWAYS WORKING OVERTIME. EACH CALL IS DIFFERENT AND YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO BE FACED WITH.

I HEARD STORIES ABOUT A CHEMICAL FIRE AT LAMAR UNIVERSITY IN THE CHEMICAL BUILDING.  A BOILER THAT EXPLODED AND BLEW OUT THE SOUTH WALL OF THE ROUND LAMAR ADMINISTRATION BUILDING. FIRES AT MOBIL OIL REFINERY. A TANK TRUCK FIRE ON WASHINGTON BOULEVARD  A RECENT GAS LEAK ON IRBY AND UNIVERSITY WHICH HAD THE POTENTIAL OF BEING A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION. THE TANKER TRUCK ON THE OLD PORT ARTHUR ROAD WHICH WAS STRUCK BY A VEHICLE ON A VERY FOGGY DAY, CAUSING THE TRUCK TO EXPLODE AND CATCH FIRE, KILLING THE DRIVER OF THE VEHICLE. RESPONDING TO AN AUTO ACCIDENT AND HAVING TO USE THE JAWS OF LIFE TO RESCUE THE VICTIM - SOMETIMES TOO LATE. A BIG FIRE AT THE ART BUILDING AT LAMAR UNIVERSITY.

AND TRYING TO RESCUE CITIZENS AS WELL AS PETS FROM BURNING BUILDINGS. TAKING YOUR LIFE IN YOUR OWN HANDS TO SAVE SOMEONE ELSE'S LIFE.  AND EVEN A CLOSE CALL FOR ONE OF THE FIRE FIGHTERS WHEN THEY RESPONDED TO A FIRE ON COLLEGE STREET, AND GOING UP THE LADDER INTO THE SECOND STORY, A GAS HEATER IGNITED, AND  BLEW UP, CAUSING THE AIR MASK OF THE FIRE FIGHTER TO BE BLOWN OFF, AND THE FIRE FIGHTER KNOCKED OFF THE LADDER. LUCKY FOR HIM, ANOTHER FIRE FIGHTER WAS ABLE TO GRAB HIM AND KEEP HIM FROM FALLING TO THE GROUND.

AND I HEARD THE STORY OF THE YOUNG FIRE  FIGHTER, BOB  GLASS, WHO ON CHRISTMAS DAY, 1915 WAS KILLED ON THE WAY TO A FIRE. HE WAS THE FIRST FIRE FIGHTER KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY, AND THE BEAUMONT  FIRE MUSEUM  BUILDING,  I UNDERSTAND, WAS DEDICATED IN HIS HONOR.

BUT IN SPITE OF ALL THIS, THEY ALL SEEMED TO RELAY THE MESSAGE THAT THEY ENJOYED THEIR WORK AND THE FELLOWSHIP THEY SHARED WITH THEIR FELLOW WORKERS. AND NOW PLANS HAVE BEEN APPROVED BY THE CITY FOR A NEW FIRE STATION FOR SOUTH PARK - TO BE LOCATED AT THE CORNER OF WOODROW AND KENNETH. AND THEY ARE ALL LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEW STATION AND THE UPDATED FACILITIES. ONE FIREMAN TOLD ME HE HAD HAD WATER AND MUD IN HIS LOCKER (WHICH IS A LOWER LEVEL LOCKER) 3 TIMES IN THE 2 1/2 YEARS HE HAS BEEN AT STATION #3 (ONCE RECENTLY) AND HE IS LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEW STATION.

THE  NEW  STATION  PLANS  WERE APPROVED BY THE CITY ON SEPTEMBER 29, 1998 AND COMPLETION OF THE NEW FACILITY IS SCHEDULED FOR SPRING OF 1999. IT WILL FACE WOODROW, AND BE A DRIVE THROUGH STATION, DRIVING THROUGH OFF KENNETH STREET INTO THE STATION. IT WILL HAVE APPROXIMATELY 5,000 SQUARE FEET, WITH A CAPTAIN'S OFFICE, A KITCHEN, DORM AND FAMILY TYPE ROOM.  THE STATION WILL COVER THE SOUTH PARK AREA UP TO THE CITY LIMITS, NORTH TO THE CHARLTON POLLARD AREA (INCLUDING MOBIL OIL), AND WEST TO 11TH STREET, WHICH INCLUDES THE PEAR ORCHARD AREA. AND THANKS TO CHIEF 'MICKEY" BERTRAND FOR HIS IMPUT INTO THIS ARTICLE.

OVER THE PAST 100 YEARS, THE CITY OF BEAUMONT HAS HAD ONLY 6 FIRE CHlEFS, WITH CHIEF "MICKEY" BERTRAND BEING THE CURRENT CHIEF.


 ED E. EASTHAN 1899-1918
S.D. O'CONOR 1918-1956
J. N. RICHARDSON 1957-1959
C. A. CRISWELL 1960-1975
C. A. "PETE" SHELTON  1976-1996
MICHAEL "MICKEY" BERTRAND  1996


SO - OUR SOUTH PARK FIRE STATIONS HAVE COME A LONG WAY FROM THE LITTLE WOODEN STATION ON HARRIOTT AND SABINE PASS TO THE NEW STATION SOON TO RESIDE IN SOUTH PARK.

AND TO ALL THE MEN AND WOMEN FIRE FIGHTERS WHO HAVE BEEN A PART OF EVERY SOUTH PARK FIRE STATION - A VERY SPECIAL "THANKS" FOR A JOB WELL DONE!  AND THANKS TO ALL THE  FIRE  FIGHTERS THROUGH OUT THE CITY OF BEAUMONT. WE APPRECIATE YOU!