NO INJURIES IN RETIREMENT HOME FIRE NEAR COVINGTON

More than 40 firefighters from eight Northshore fire districts responded to a smoke alarm activation at a retirement home near Covington yesterday evening, evacuating the facility without serious incident before bringing a small electrical problem under control.

At 7:17 p.m. on Tuesday, an alarm company contacted the UniFire dispatch center to report an alarm activation at The Trace at Claiborne Hill, 19432 Crawford Road, a retirement home and assisted-living facility just outside Covington.  Units from Fire District 12 were on the scene in less than four minutes, discovering smoke in some hallways of the building.  Because of the nature of the facility, additional units were immediately dispatched and surrounding fire districts were asked to assist.

Fire Districts 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and the City of Covington Fire Department all responded, as did Acadian Ambulance personnel and Fire District 4 ambulances.  Covington Police and Sheriff’s Office deputies also responded to assist.  Emergency responders safely evacuated approximately 85 residents and employees of the facility, and EMS staff conducted triage on all evacuees.  There were no injuries.

Firefighters quickly identified the source of the smoke as an electrical problem in one of the building’s elevators and neutralized the danger. There were no flames, but investigators believe overheating electrical components caused the smoke.   At 8:22, the scene was declared under control.  Residents were returned to their homes.

A total of eight fire engine companies, four tankers, one ladder truck and 10 support vehicles responded from area agencies, with 47 total personnel.

“First and foremost, we’re glad the incident was relatively minor and that no one was injured,” said FD12 Deputy Chief Stephen Krentel.  “Had there been a severe fire, this had the potential to be a mass casualty incident with an extremely tragic outcome.  In addition to our sense of relief, we can add our pride in the way emergency response agencies collaborated to ensure a safe outcome.  Situations like this underscore the high level of cooperation fire districts and law enforcement display when the lives of citizens are in danger.  Mutual aid agreements are more than just paper or formality; when needed, emergency responders in St. Tammany Parish provide virtually seamless response, and all of us in fire service are very proud of that teamwork.”

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For more information, visit www.fd12.org, or find Fire District 12 on Facebook.

Media Contact:
James Hartman
james@jameshartman.net
504.458.4600

JOINT FIRE DISTRICT TRAINING EXERCISE ENDS WITH CONTROLLED STRUCTURE FIRE

A four-week joint training exercise involving three St. Tammany Fire Protection Districts culminated Saturday with the controlled burning of a home near Covington.

Over the last month, firefighters from Districts 2, 12 and 13 used an abandoned home for training exercises involving tactical operations, search and rescue techniques, hose deployment, ventilation techniques, fire suppression, and fire origin and cause determination.  The home, at 75421 River Road, was donated to FD12 by Judy and Milous Holliday.

More than 90 firefighters participated in the exercises, and the controlled burn was completed on Aug. 3.  Click HERE for video of the home being consumed by fire.

“Ongoing training is vital to the safety of firefighters and to the public we serve,” said Dominick Bourgeois, chief of training at FD12.  “We are very thankful the Hollidays made this home available to us.  The people of all three fire districts that participated will be better served as a result.”

“We have other properties that have been donated that we’ll be using in coming weeks for similar exercises,” said FD12 Chief of Fire Prevention Kris Hines.  “Experiences like these are extraordinarily valuable for all of us in the fire service.”

For more information about FD12, visit www.FD12.org or find the agency at www.Facebook.com/STFD12.

Covington father rallies community support for son’s cochlear implant surgery: Goodbee/South of Covington

I am a firm believer that paths cross for a reason. As a woman who struggles with (and often whines about) a moderately severe hearing loss, I was destined to meet Hammond resident and self-employed carpenter, David Byrd. Byrd, owner of David’s Home Care and Repairs, is totally deaf and has recently been approved for a cochlear transplant.

There is one major problem: The procedure, and rehabilitation that follows, costs a whopping $40,000 and Byrd has no insurance.

This is where a father’s love comes into play. The elder Byrd, Mike, is actively raising funds to enable his adult son to hear. Mike Byrd recently decided to raffle a two-day hunting and fishing excursion in Livingston, Ala., with proceeds going to cover his son’s medical expenses.

He already has raised $6,000, but still has a long ways to go.

Now, the Byrd family is giving everyone in St. Tammany Parish and the greater New Orleans area an opportunity to help.

The raffle is for a trip to Dream Lake Lodge, owned by Harvey and Lisa Kelley of Mandeville. Tickets are $20 each or six for $100, and can be purchased by contacting Mike Byrd.

Only 1,500 tickets are being sold, and the drawing for the winner will be held on July 4 at the lodge in Alabama.

“I want to hear deer as they walk through the woods,” David Byrd said.
Mike Byrd stressed that even though his son was equipped with his first hearing aid at age 1, David Byrd has come to a point where the devices are no longer a benefit to him. He has worn “powerful amplifications for years and years but they are no longer helping,” Mike said.

The next logical step in such a case, provided someone is cleared for the operation, is the implant which is also sometimes referred to as a bionic ear.

While at first glance this may sound like “just another fundraising story,” it is so much more. Spending an hour with Mike Byrd gave me only a small glimpse at this man’s enormous love and compassion for his son.

He explained that his family moved to Covington when has son was young and David’s mother, Pam, managed to homeschool David through the 12th grade. Once David Byrd completed high school, he enrolled in what is now the Louisiana Technical College and later received his certification in carpentry from the Covington vocational school.

“Since then, he has been self-employed,” Mike Byrd said, adding that his son’s road has not been an easy one but he has been encouraged and emotionally supported by his family. That support is quite obvious.

Mike Byrd, an accountant in Covington, works as his son’s “office.” He orally assists in setting up jobs for the younger Byrd and they constantly text throughout the day. As he interprets via sign language for his son, it is apparent that the two are a team, and that the elder Byrd’s idea for the raffle was one designed to help enhance David’s life.

Since our conversation was so close to Father’s Day, I could not help but see Mike Byrd as an incredible dad who would do anything for his son. He has worked as David’s ears for years, and now he wishes for his son to have “working” ears of his own.

In addition to his carpentry business, David Byrd also donates his time and skills to help others. He recently made a trip to Jamaica with fellow church members to repair and construct houses on the island. While showing me photos from his trip, David Byrd pointed out a hearing-impaired man he met while on the mission. He leaned in close to explain his plans to send the man his super-amplified hearing aides “after his surgery.”

The surgery will be the first of any kind for David, but he is anxious about the procedure. “I want to hear deer as they walk through the woods,” he said.

I have to admit that although I am not a hunter, I felt a special kinship with David yet I was extremely humbled by the whole experience. His life is one of struggles, yet he has finished high school and become a successful businessman, and he is extremely optimistic about his future.

Shame on me for the times in which I have felt sorry for myself.

To purchase raffle tickets or assist the effort in any way, call Mike Byrd at 985.373.8001.