Discussions of forming a fire department in LaPlace started in 1953 by E.L. Fagot, a local florist who was a fireman in the Elmeer Vol. Fire Dept. in Metairie Louisiana in the 1930s to 40s. After seeing his good friends beautiful plantation home burn to the ground, he tried to get people interested in forming a fire department in LaPlace, only to meet resistance since there was no water system in LaPlace. He tried to explain to them of the tanker system to shuttle water, but it fell on deaf ears.
Again he tried to get a fire brigade organized since there was now a public water system and a few hydrants in LaPlace. Again the Sheriff, P. D. Hebert and a few Police Jury members believed we only needed one fire truck and it should be placed in Reserve.
Finally in September of 1958 Mr. Fagot persuaded Jimmy Simmons, the Fire Chief of Kaiser Aluminum plant in Gramercy, Warren Smokey Montz a telephone company employee and part time insurance agent, and Milton Bienvenu, owner of LaPlace Lumber Co. to get serious about forming a fire department for LaPlace. After several meetings at the lumber company, Mr. Simmons home Melrose Ave., and Airline Motors restaurant, each member was given certain tasks to complete. In December of 1958, it was announced that the organizational meeting to the fire department would be held January 6, 1959 at John L. Ory School for 7 PM.
The meeting was called to order by Milton Bienvenu. At that meeting Jimmy Simmons was elected President, Paul Womax was Secretary/ Treasurer, and E.L. Fagot was elected Fire Chief. At the next meeting a week later, local attorney D. Elmore Becnel, agreed to get the department chartered. The articles of incorporation, and charter were completed in February of 1959. Plans called for the Police Jury, the governing body of the parish at that time, was asked to rent a fire truck for $1 per year from the New Orleans Fire Dept., and to install more fire hydrants. The first fire drill was held Jan. 11, with 38 members present. They hooked up 2 lengths of fire hose to a hydrant and learned how to hold a nozzle and shoot water at hydrant pressure. The first fire truck, a very old Mack truck, arrived on Jan. 17, 1959. Kaiser Aluminum donated 300 feet of hose and Shell Oil donated 2 nozzles to help the new department get going. At the first fire drill with the truck, it was discovered that the pumpers threads didnt match the hose, the hose didnt match the hydrant and the nozzles didnt match anything. By the next week, adapters were obtained and the first successful fire drill was held on Ormond Blvd. at the fire hydrant that is located just off Airline Hwy. in an open lot that is now Hibernia Bank.
The pumper was stored in an open shed behind Airlines Motors restaurant, since it was the only place in St. John Parish that was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A special red phone (that was special in those days) was on the wall in the service station where employees were trained to take the fire call message. They called Mrs. Simmons and Mrs. Fagot, who each had a list of members to call. Each of those members would in turn call 3-5 other members. The department had over 100 members on the rooster. The Police Jury decided to give us $2000 to purchase equipment. They also decided to give each of the 4 organized fire departments in the parish $2000 per year. Each department was responsible for raising additional funds to operate. LaPlace organized an annual house to house fund drive each year in March. Our first structure fire was an old plantation worker house on River Road just east of Walnut St. It was fully engulfed in flames upon our arrival. There was a hydrant close by, but despite our best efforts, it burned to the ground.
In 1960, the firemen located a 1937 American LaFrance 500 gpm gear (positive displacement) pumper. They purchased the vehicle, and drove it home from Minden La. It had a non-functional relief valve, with no parts available to repair it and being a positive displacement pump you would not dare to close off a nozzle with the pump running. It was housed at Airline Motors open garage.
Gulf States Land and Industries, the local land developer that purchased all of the sugar cane fields in LaPlace that were owned by Godchaux Sugar in Reserve, donated a plot of ground on Hemlock St. for our first fire station.
The first fire station was built on Hemlock St. in the then sugar cane field. It could house two fire trucks, the 1937 American LaFrance, and a soon to be purchased tanker. It was a single story 2 bay station with a meeting hall and kitchen. It was used for public meetings, teen-age dances every weekend, wedding receptions, etc. It was a revenue generating facility for the firemen.
Purchased a 1956 GMC Air Force tanker from Federal Surplus Agency in Baton Rouge and converted it to a 1500 gallon water tanker. It was stationed in the new fire station on Hemlock St.
The firemen purchased their first modern centrifugal 1000 gpm 1960 International pumper on a Central Fire Apparatus body. The truck had previously been owned by a department in Central Louisiana when they overturned the truck on its third call.
In September 1965, Hurricane Betsy destroyed the fire station, but only doing cosmetic damage damage to the 2 fire trucks. Chief Fagots Station wagon did not fare as well as the fire dept. concrete block wall fell on it, crushing it. Chief Fagot, his son, Frank, and a registered nurse Mrs.Virginia Malik were manning the fire station as a shelter when the bay area was blown away. Slight roof damage happened to the meeting room. Chief Fagot, a childhood friend of then Congressman Hale Boggs, told him of the damage to his small town fire dept. building, and Congressman Boggs secured a $10,000 grant for the dept. to rebuild the station.
The LaPlace firemen were the first department in the River Parish area to have a 2-way radio system, and the firemen were now notified of a fire call by a receiver in their home. The radio was operated by the new 24 hour sheriff's office on Cardinal St. in LaPlace. Calls were answered by the sheriff dispatcher, and he dispatched the fire dept. Our two fire trucks and the Chief's pick-up truck each had radios in them.
The J.O. Montegut family donated land on Walnut St. for our second fire station. Mr. J.O. Montegut, a former St. John Parish School superintendent, and an original member of the department donated the land to have a station in the area on the east end on town.
The Montegut Fire Station construction was started in December, the station was dedicated the following April.
A banner year for the firemen. It took delivery of a brand new 1970 Mack Custom diesel powered 1250 gpm pumper, at a cost of $36,450 It was the first diesel powered pumper between Kenner and Baton Rouge. It is also the year Frank Fagot became the second Fire Chief, succeeding his father who was in ill health. This was the year the firemen also received the 1947 army DUKW from Civil Defense. In 1970, in an effort to raise more money for the fire department, it was suggested that a firemen's fair be held. That was voted down. Later that year a local carpenter Sleepy Landry suggested to the owner of LObservateur that some club or organization should hold a festival in honor of andouille, a smoked pork sausage made only in this area commercially. No one took him up on the offer. Chief Fagot was asked to have the fire department take on this task. The members voted it down again. Being the persistent person he was, Mr. Lucia again asked Chief Fagot to use his influence to get a festival going in honor of andouille.
After a lot of politicking, the motion was made and seconded to have the fire dept. sponsor an Andouille Festival. It took all of 1971 to research and organize the LaPlace Andouille Festival and look for a place to hold this event. It was suggested that it be held at the LaPlace Drag strip. The lease was obtained, and work began on building booths that could be quickly assembled and disassembled and stored.
The first Andouille Festival was held the last weekend of October 1972. Today it is still held on the last weekend of October.
The firemen purchased the abandoned Coca-Cola warehouse next to the fire station on Hemlock St. This was the first land officially owned by the LaPlace Volunteer Fire Department, since the 2 stations were on donated land as long as it remained a fire station. The $50,000 price tag was a great deal, since the booths for the Andouille Festival could now be stored there as well as the DUKW and any other equipment the department may acquire.
The department received its second Mack Custom Diesel 1500 gpm pumper and placed in service at a cost of $42,750 . LaPlace was still the only fire department between Kenner & Baton Rouge to operate not one, but two Diesel powered fire apparatus. This is also the year the department organized a medical unit, with the first Nationally Registered EMTs in the River Parishes area. A used Chevy suburban, dubbed Wild Bill was placed in service to serve as the medical unit Firefighter Bill Lewis was responsible for bringing the medical services to LVFD.
A third Mack Custom Diesel 1500 gpm pumper, was placed in service at a cost of $77,260. All three Mack pumpers are in service today. This is also the year the department purchased the Jaws of Life tools. The original Jaws was taken out of service in 2003, after 26 years of service.
Purchased a used 1965 American LaFrance AeroChief snorkel unit, one of only 5 produced with a 2,000 gpm turret in the basket. It was a 90 foot aerial with an articulating boom.
Replaced Wild Bill our old, overloaded medical unit with a new E-One light rescue truck, on a 1 ton Chevy chassis. This truck was soon overloaded with medical and rescue equipment including the latest Jaws of Life units. We had 23 Nationally Registered EMTs on call.
With the house to house annual fund drive and the work of putting on the Andouille Festival each year to finance the operation of the fire dept., it was overloading the volunteers to have to do this work, answer the 1,000 calls per year, and work at their jobs, the 4 volunteer fire departments started working on a plan to get a Cent sales tax passed to finance the departments.
With lots of campaigning to garner support of the people for the Cent sales tax, it was passed by an overwhelming majority vote on October 8, 1984. The tax would start in April of 1985. With the Andouille Festival a huge success that year, Chief Frank Fagot elected to resign as Chief at the end of October. This allowed the new Chief, John Snyder to begin preparations for the allocation of the new sales tax money, set up a budget, and purchase new equipment to take the department in a new direction, without having to worry about putting on a fund drive, which was no longer needed, and the andouille festival work, even though the department still owned the festival, more work was delegated to the other organizations and they got more of the profits of the festival.
A new GMC 1000 gpm pumper was placed into service. The 1970 Mack was refurbished and placed back in service.
Station #2 (Montegut Fire Station) on Walnut St. was refurbished and enlarged.
A third fire station was built on St. Andrews Blvd., as well as a new 95 ft. aerial platform unit placed in service. The aerial truck was purchased at a cost of $435,000. A new 1250 gpm Custom pumper was also placed in service as well as the 1974 Mack pumper refurbished
The 1977 Mack pumper was refurbished. High side compartments added.
Purchased a new E-One Heavy Rescue truck on a Mack chassis. New equipment, including new Jaws of Life and air bags were purchased.
Purchased a used Mack truck from Miller Beer and converted it into a Hazardous Materials unit. This vehicle was equipped with various types of equipment to assist at hazardous materials incidents.
Stations 54 on Woodland Dr. and Station 55 on Belle Pointe Blvd. were built, with facilities at Station 54 for a training ground.
A Tshaped burn building was constructed at Station 54, complete with sprinkler system and roof vents operated from outside building.
Constructed a 4 story training tower at Station 54 for use in aerial rescue, rope rescue, etc.
Purchased a new medium duty E-One rescue truck on a Freightliner chassis to replace the overloaded 1980 E-One rescue. Chief John Snyder resigned as Chief and was replaced by Bobby Bourgeois
A new Chief's car, a 1997 Crown Victoria, was purchased to replace the suburban that was then retired.
A new car was purchased for the Chief, and the Assistant Chief was assigned the 1997 vehicle.
Acquired a 5000 gallon super tanker on a 1981 Mack super duty chassis from St. John Parish Airport . Converted it to a tanker for fire fighting, and plans for more restoration will make it a vehicle that will assist if fire fighting in remote areas where there is no water supply.
Took delivery of two (2) E-One CycloneII rescue-pumpers at a cost of $327,000 each. Equipment for each truck added another $15,000 to the price tag of each truck. Chief Bobby Bourgeois resigned and was replaced by our present Chief, Brent Glidden. A new suburban was purchased for the Chief. Assistant Chief's now use the cars.
Received a grant from FEMA for new bunker gear, and new breathing apparatus. Purchased the latest in new bunker gear from helmet to boots for each firefighter, as well as new 4500 psi breathing apparatus for each firefighter, along with spare bottles.
Another Cent sales tax was passed to support a partially paid fire department in St. John Parish. LaPlace would get 3 firefighters around the clock, whereas Reserve, Garyville, and Westside Fire Departments would have paid firefighters Monday -Friday during the day.
Received a grant from FEMA for sprinkler systems in three (3) fire stations. In April, the first round the clock paid firefighters went to work in LaPlace, supplemented by the volunteers.
John Snyder, Jr. was elected Fire Chief.