Hurricane Heroes: How the students at Nicholls served their community

While many prepared to evacuate the Houma-Thibodaux region on Aug. 28, some members of the Nicholls Student Firefighter Association (SFA) alongside the Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department (TVFD) prepared for Hurricane Ida.

Some of the younger members of the Nicholls SFA and the TVFD decided to stay and help the older members of the TVFD take care of the community. 

Lt. Austin Montero and Daniel Parker waited out the storm in Protector Fire Company No. 2. 

”Through every storm, I’ve stayed because I know If I don’t, who’s going to,” Parker said. 

Throughout the first three days following the storm, they spent about 12 hours each day responding to calls and clearing the roads of trees all over the city of Thibodaux. 

Members of the SFA responded to over 160 calls over the following two and a half weeks  from people who had stayed home or were returning home after the storm. 

“At least 95% of the calls we responded to were carbon monoxide alarms from people running their in-home generators,” Montero said. 

When the winds from the storm exceeded the 50 mph mark, the TFVD stopped responding to calls because of the dangerous nature of the winds.

Due to the nature of the storm and how powerful it was, Fire Chief Tony Boudreaux said it would not be safe for them to travel, even on their heavier apparatus in the middle of the storm.

“We couldn’t, we didn’t, it was not safe for us to,” Parker said. 

SFA was stationed in three out of the eight fire companies across town where they waited out the storm as a team, and they went to work at daybreak the day after the storm.

Once the road was clear, the plan shifted to help members of the TVFD take care of their homes, and then they went on to help the rest of the community. 

“A couple of our member’s houses got severely damaged,” Montero said. “We would go out and our philosophy was let’s help our members first, and then we’ll go ahead and help everybody else because how are you going to help out somebody else if all of your guys need to do their own thing.”

Parker mentioned that they were lucky if they got three hours of sleep every night because they kept receiving one call after the other, and Boudreaux requested teams to come in and help respond to the calls.

Pace Fire Rescue, Ocean City Bright and North Fort Walton came in from Florida and stayed at the active Thibodaux fire stations.

“If a tone dropped, they were on the truck, and they were all going,” Montero said. 

Not only were they responding to fire calls, but they were running rescues and medical squads.

The members of the Nicholls SFA got to learn from other fire companies and created a bond with them as well as the community. 

“It’s amazing how everybody from all different blocks of life, all different ages, can come to an organization for a common goal,” Montero said. “That’s just a lesson that I’m gonna take away and a lesson that I’m not gonna forget.”

Chief Boudreaux said that having the Nicholls SFA around has breathed new life into the fire department. As the pace of life increases, volunteers at the fire department do not have as much time available to serve the community, so the SFA has been a great addition to the TVFD. 

This event was incredibly beneficial to the members of the SFA, as it gave them the opportunity to respond to real life emergency situations and grow closer to their peers.

“It is about being part of a group that its origins are deeply rooted in the fabric of our countries, and it is truly rewarding to be able to assist someone when their time of need is coming,” Boudreaux said. “It’s about forming these bonds with other individuals that could last a lifetime and could help steer your life in a good direction.”