During finals week in May, Nicholls State University senior Joseph “Joe” Bourg was heading into his Marketing 300 exam in the Academic Testing Center when he received a report of a possible fire at the John A. Brady Jr. Residential Complex. Though he’d spent countless hours preparing for this final and had uncertainty on when or if he’d be able to make it up as the semester was ending, Joe didn’t hesitate to respond to the call. “I didn’t even have to say anything. I looked at my professor. He gave me a thumbs-up; I gave him a thumbs-up back. He said, ‘I’ll see you after,’” Joe remembers.
Joe rushed to Bowie Road to assess the apartment fire, relay information to his team members who were en route and help in any other way he could. Fortunately, the incident caused no injuries. It produced moderate smoke from oil burning on the stove, forcing one appliance to be removed from the building.
For Joe, a member of the Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department (TVFD) and Nicholls State University Student Firefighter Association (SFA) President, responding to incidents while on campus is nothing new, but it being at such a crucial time in his studies was unique. “It’s happened a lot of times, but it’s never actually happened in the middle of Finals Week,” he says. “Being a senior and going through finals, there’s not a whole lot of things that you can miss. It’s the last possible day for finals. They’re [professors] not going to give a lot of exceptions.” In addition to occasionally confronting dangerous situations, that’s a risk the first lieutenant and his fellow Student Firefighter Association members are willing to take.
Randy Pate, Department Captain and Chief for Life with TVFD, started the program a few years ago to recruit young adults and increase safety efforts at the university. “It just makes sense for us to recruit and be part of the campus that we support,” he notes.
The association currently has 29 members, who each have their own reason for joining the fire department. Hailing from the Lafayette area, Joe wanted to know more about Thibodaux and meet new people. “I knew where I was going to school, and I knew a little bit about the area. But it was through the fire department that I met a lot of people,” he shares. “It really opened my eyes and allowed for me to receive more opportunities. Because of the fire department, I’m at where I’m at right now in life with my career.”
Grant Adams, a second lieutenant with TVFD, says he never expected to join the fire service, even though he is now a third-generation member. “My dad had been in it; my grandpa had been in it. And once my dad got back out of it, it was kind of one of those things of us joining to try to get him back into it — getting the family all together to have fun, enjoy the fire department and help people around the town,” the Thibodaux native shares.
A former high school football player from Assumption Parish, Grant Dupaty was looking for something to drive him after hanging up his cleats. “I didn’t really have anything that kept me on my toes,” he says. “[Being a firefighter] gives you something to be accountable for. The whole time [football players] are in school, they’re thinking about having to get their grades right and stuff so that they can like be able to play on the field. Well, I know I want to get my grades right so that I can show up for the fire call whenever I need to.”