PHOTO GALLERY – Port Arthur Fire Service celebrates 125th anniversary with ceremony – Port Arthur News

PHOTO GALLERY – Port Arthur Fire Service celebrates 125th anniversary with ceremony

Posted at 1:13 p.m. on Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Firefighters, said Port Arthur Fire Chief Greg Benson, are helping people on what could be the worst day of their lives.

Sometimes it is the last day of their life.

“It is a tragedy that is happening, but we are here to try to prevent this, to avoid this and to support their families,” he said.

Benson spoke Wednesday at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center, where current and former members of the fire department joined community leaders in celebrating the service’s 125th anniversary.

“Respecting history is important, but we also need to engage in forward thinking about what’s going to happen in the future,” Benson said. “So providing that background for that continued community service success is an important aspect. We must continue to focus on service, safety and excellence.

The room contained a photo exhibit covering the department’s history, as well as a rotating slide show featuring images of significant moments.

And in some, former members saw parts of their own history.

“That engine right there – I used to drive Stonegate 8 for years,” David Guillot said, pointing to the slideshow. Guillot started his career at the PAFD in 1975 and retired in 2013. But it was a job he never expected to get.

“It was time to find a real job. I took a test for the police, the fire department and something else,” Guillot said. “I passed them all, I did ‘eenie meenie miney mo’ and I chose the fire department. I’d rather dodge fire than bullets. But it’s also not healthy to run into a burning building, while everyone is trying to get out.

But it was worth it, he said.

“It was a great job,” he said. “We didn’t get rich, but we made a living. And people cared about each other. I still have a place in my heart for each of them.

Guillot now sits on the city council of the Netherlands.

“I deal with the police and the fire department there all the time, and I tell them, ‘I can’t promise you everything, but if there’s something you need, I’ll fight for it'” , did he declare.

Port Neches Fire Chief Eloy Vega was also in attendance from Mid County.

“We are happy to be here and happy to have been invited because we consider them our partners,” Vega said. “Speaking of partnerships, one of the characteristics of our region is the collaboration of cities, not only with firefighters, but also with the police.”

City Manager Ron Burton also addressed the crowd, assuring that, along with the City Council and staff, Port Arthur is committed to supporting the department.

Plans are underway to relocate and upgrade two fire stations, and recently PAFD received a new life-saving automatic CPR machine.

“We would like to commend you for the tremendous sacrifice you have made with your families to improve the overall quality of life in the city of Port Arthur,” Burton said. “We know that you spend more time taking care of the business of the city than taking care of your family and your children. It is therefore our responsibility to ensure that your sanity and the area you use for your daily operations is safe, secure and comfortable for you and the people you serve.

Here are some facts about the PAFD as provided by the department:

  • An executive meeting of the Port Arthur Club decided to create the department on August 19, 1897.
  • A “proper fire bell” that would be placed on a tower to warn residents of a fire was the first item to be purchased.
  • A full-time driver was hired in 1908, making it the first time the PAFD had a paid position and was not strictly volunteer.
  • Due to the Depression, the membership was reduced from 56 men to 18 in 1933. In 1948 they were down to 43 and had 68 in 1956.
  • In 1975, the PAFD responded to an average of 1,200 emergencies each year.