Bon Secour VFD dedicated to saving lives

By Jessica Vaughn / jessica@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 3/20/18

The Bon Secour Volunteer Fire Department, established in 1975, consists of approximately 17 volunteers and is headed by Fire Chief Paul Shoenight, who has been with the department since …

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Bon Secour VFD dedicated to saving lives

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The Bon Secour Volunteer Fire Department, established in 1975, consists of approximately 17 volunteers and is headed by Fire Chief Paul Shoenight, who has been with the department since 1993.

“When I first started, we averaged about three calls a month,” said Shoenight. “It’s jumped to 15 or 20 calls a month, and that’s just for our small department alone.”

Bon Secour VFD handles every type of call, from structure fires, car wrecks, grass fires, and downed powerlines. In every type of situation, the volunteers’ main concern is the lives in danger during the event.

“Goal one is to save lives,” said Shoenight. “Save a life if it’s in danger, and then save the property. You can replace the property, but you can’t replace someone.”

To assist in their mission, the department has the jaws-of-life on two of their trucks, as well as thermal imaging cameras. Recently, the department purchased wireless headsets that allow up to five people to connect to a hub and communicate instantaneously. Along with fire trucks, the unit also owns fire boats to assist them in fighting fire on the water, along with their very own dive team. Everything is in the name of serving the community.

“We do fire prevention demonstrations at the schools,” Shoenight said. “We line ours up around November, and we’ll do fire prevention with the kids. We bring out the safety trailer and teach them how to prevent fires and what to do if one does start.”

Come December the unit will set up at Swift School’s ornament rotation, where they set up a table to hand out smoke detectors.

“Lowes Home Improvement gives us a discount on smoke detectors for this event,” Shoenight said. “When a family that has no or very little smoke detectors in their home comes to our table, we pass the detectors out for free along with safety pamphlets. We feel like our best odds at saving a life are through fire prevention and early detection, which is a smoke detector.”

The department holds two boot drives through the year, and the funds are used towards the community.

“For a small department, we raise a lot of money,” said Shoenight. “We raised over $8,000 last year. This is our best way to save a life or make a life more comfortable, to help buy a wheelchair or to send a kid to camp. We feel good when helping the community.”

They will also loan out their building when someone needs a place to hold a charity fish fry or benefit.

Volunteers are always welcome, and Shoenight stated that the difference a volunteer can make is the best part.

“A lot of people don’t realize they can make that difference, but they can,” said Shoenight. “You get the training, we’ll send you to school to take fire classes and medical classes, and then you’ll find you and your team are the ones who can make a big difference. And of course we’re not paid, but our pay is in the satisfaction that we help make a difference during someone’s worst day ever.”

Shoenight said the department would be unable to do all that they do if it were not for the support of the community, for which he and the unit are grateful.

“I’d like to thank the community of Bon Secour for supporting us the way they do,” said Shoenight. “We have a huge support base in Bon Secour, and if it wasn’t for that, and for the support we get from our families and spouses, we couldn’t do what we do.”