Students Protecting Students

During the semester, there is probably a good chance a firefighter is in the same building as you. You may not know it. They don’t wear badges, name tags or red helmets because they’re not looking for attention. Perhaps they’re sitting next to you in class or they’re studying in a break room down the hall, ready at any moment to respond to a nearby emergency.

Thibodaux Volunteer Firefighters Andrew Benoit-Naquin and Jay Danos started the Nicholls Student Firefighter Association to increase fire safety across campus. They also wanted to establish an emergency response team on campus.

“We want to bring Colonel Pride to the Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department,” Benoit-Naquin says.

Each of the students became firefighters in different ways, for different reasons. For Andrew Benoit-Naquin, it’s in his blood to be a firefighter. His dad was an assistant fire chief and his dad was fire chief. He grew up going on calls with his dad. In that time, Benoit-Naquin has seen everything from houses engulfed in flames to life-altering car wrecks to false alarms to carbon monoxide calls to a tree being down in the road. He has not yet, though, had to retrieve a cat from a tree.

“I was following family tradition, and I grew to fall in love with it,” he says. “I love the service. I couldn’t imagine not doing it.”

For Danos and Ira Bourg, they had friends in the department who encouraged them to join.

“I joined first and asked my mom second,” says Bourg, who is now a paid firefighter in Bayou Blue, a volunteer firefighter in Thibodaux and Chackbay and the SFA vice president.

While you may not recognize the firefighters, you will recognize their firetruck. With the words “Geaux Colonels” painted across the side, the firetruck has been a staple near the end zone of Colonel football games. Danos says this is part of their role as a campus and community organization.

“Being involved in this group has helped me to become more disciplined and to think less of myself and more about others,” he says.

Though class is their top priority, they keep their pagers on in case of an emergency. Bourg has had a call come through as he was walking into class and another at 2 a.m. when he was studying for finals. When that happens, the faculty and their peers have their backs.

“It feels cool when a teacher thanks you for your service,” he says. “It’s a big thing to know that we have this level of support from the faculty and staff. It makes you appreciate of what Nicholls is doing for us and the fire department.”

To date, the organization has only responded to two calls on campus: a wreck with minor injuries and a malfunctioning smoke detector. And they’re okay with that.

“It’s a big thing to know that we have this level of support from the faculty and staff. ” – Ira Bourg

The Nicholls Student Firefighter Association stands in front of their firetruck.

Up next is enhancing campus safety. The group is working with campus safety director Brian Clausen to get defibrillators in every building on campus and get into the surrounding community to make sure they have a working smoke detector.

“Having the student organization here on campus helps us better serve both the community and the university,” Danos says. “At the end of the day, we know that it’s not about us as a person, but the whole organization. That’s the best part about it.”
That’s because it’s all about the community.

“The biggest thing we want to do is let people know that if something happens, we’re just one classroom over,” Bourg says. “You never know if someone is going to black out or stop breathing. And that’s the beautiful thing about the SFA is that we can be there for somebody when they need us most.”

– Jacob Batte