Erath Volunteer Fire Department
Spirit of Erath Centennial Series
This is a special tribute to all of the firemen who have selflessly served the Erath Volunteer Fire Department since the of it's life in 1946.
The infancy of any community brings forth struggle and survival. Though difficult adapting to problems, death and destruction, becomes a way of life. As with natural disasters, destructive fires have posed problems since Erath's birth. However, the town has always managed to survive whatever crossed it's path. Although fires caused problems before 1911, Hinkley's Bakery fire on Kibbe street was Erath's first recorded blaze in 1912. Without a water system in place, residents fought fires with buckets of water.
In 1914, a water system was installed in the Village of Erath. Behind the old Bank of Erath, (now the Acadian Museum), a water tower was constructed and fire hydrants were installed to assist residents in fighting fires. However, the equipment at that time only included approximately two hundred feet of hoses, which was hooked up to a hand drawn cart. Although the Abbeville Fire Department was called in emergency situations, fires still managed to destroy buildings and homes at this time. In the mid thirties, the Cotton Gin on the corner of Derouen and Gin Street, was destroyed by fire. (Emmett and Grace Bares' home was built on the site of that cotton gin).
By the year 1938, Cap's Confectionery, Bijou Dance Hall and T. J. Suire's Dry Goods Store burnt, leaving nothing but ash and debris. With a limited water system, not much could be done other than to control the fire from spreading to other buildings. That horrendous blaze consumed not one, but three businesses located on the comer of Broadway and East Lastie. (This site is where the Bank of Erath and parking lot now stands.
Upon his return from World Wm II, Lee Bernard played a major role in organizing Erath's Volunteer Fire Department in 1946. Bernard served as Fire Chief from 1946- 1952. The equipment of the Fire Department at that time included one truck, a two hundred fifty gallon water tank, ladders, hoses, picks and axes. Fire fighting techniques were taught to mea residents, who volunteered to serve as community fire fighters. The fire alarm at that time, was a large bell that firemen rang at the news of a blaze. The bell hung from one of the lines that ran under the water tower. The Erath Fire Department Fire Chiefs through it's fifty five year history have included: Lee Bernard, 1946-1952; Lawrence Broussard, 1953-1959; Purfay/cry Richard, 1959- 1967; Donald Menard, 1967- 1972; Junius Lemaire, 1972-1976; Donald Menard 1976-1992; Russell Delahoussaye; 1992-1999; Tony Richard, 1999-2000 and Russell Delahoussaye, was back in 2000. Currently Wayne Mouton is the town's fire chief.
1964 brought with it, the destruction of the town's Fire Station and, City Hall. With an twist of Hurricane Hilda's winds, the water tower holding 40,000 gallons of water, collapsed, leaving behind rubble and eight dead men. Following that horrendous accident, found lying amidst the debris, was the unharmed fire (alarm) bell. In 1965, a new fire department was built on the comer of Kibbe and Bourque Street. Placed in front of the new fire station, was the fire station's fire, which somehow survived the tremendous impact of the water tower fall. Perched for all to see, that tiny piece of history truly symbolizes the old and new, past and present, tragedy and of course, survival. The survival of a community when destruction paved a path through the town of Erath.
Spirit of Erath Articles (Keys to the Past Series)
Written by Stacy Bodin, Erath's 100th Anniversary Erath Centennial Historian (1999)
A Special Thank You
goes out to Attorney Warren Perrin;
the Acadian Museum in Erath;
Curney Dronet, (Erath Author);
the Abbeville Meridional (Local Newspaper);
(The late) Clement Bourgeois Jr., (Erath Historian);
John LeBlanc (Town Official);
The 1999 Centennial President Jackie Vincent;
Robert Vincent (Acadiana Museum Director);
and my parents Larson "Cap" and Gertie Hebert Bodin
who assisted me in my research in this project.
The articles presented in memory of
Relie LeBlanc III
whose enthusiasm and love of Erath
inspires me still today in my quest of
researching and writing about our community.
His "Unity in the Community" motto
will forever remain in my heart.
Photo of LeBlanc is
Courtesy of Dickie Durr's Thrifty Way of Abbeville
Questions or comments?
Email Stacy Bodin