1ST RESPONDER PROFILE – Lance Billeaud takes lead as Groves Fire Chief
Published 7:30 am Sunday, March 15, 2020
GROVES — The new fire chief in Groves likely needs no introduction.
Lance Billeaud is a 26-year veteran of the department, former instructor at Lamar Institute of Technology’s Fire Academy, sports lover and color commentator for Port Neches-Groves radio.
He took the reins just weeks ago with the retirement of longtime chief Dale Jackson.
With the new job position comes much responsibility. Billeaud will be the fire chief and emergency management coordinator for Groves and also lead the animal control office, among other duties. He has an active role in the planning of the new fire station, which will be built adjacent to the city’s police department.
The firefighting bug, so to speak, bit Billeaud after watching firefighters extinguish two fires near his home as a child. He said he never had any athletic ability and thought he would need to be “strong and able to lift a house” in order to become a firefighter, so his interests moved on.
By eighth grade he was a football team equipment manager and had a cousin who was a trainer at Sam Houston State University.
“I started to love it and all through high school I was a student trainer,” he said.
A scholarship sent him to Texas A&M to study to become a trainer, but some bad choices — partying a little to hard — sent him home. From there he worked odd jobs, then met up with two firefighters. He started volunteering in 1994 and reconnected with his original first love, firefighting. He was hired in October 1997 and hasn’t looked back.
Approximately seven years ago a friend contacted him needing help finding a color commentator for PNG radio, 92.5FM. At the time he was working odd hours and knew he couldn’t swing it.
The friend called back months later and said he had Francis Schroeder on board as a play-by-play announcer, while stressing he really needed someone for the other spot.
Billeaud, a PNG High School grad and sports fan, asked Jackson and co-workers, who all said they would make it work for him and boom – he got the spot.
On another sports related topic, Billeaud was able to click off an item on his bucket list — attending the college world series in Omaha, Nebraska last year.
His wife and son surprised him with the tickets and the day after Father’s Day they went on the trip. He was able to see Florida State, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Texas Tech, Michigan and Auburn.
Billeaud has moved from the operations side of firefighting to work on the administrative side.
“The biggest challenge is the emergency management portion,” he said. “If you don’t do it right, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) won’t reimburse.”
The city manager, finance director and human resources manager are all on board with how this portion of EOC works.
“Dale (Jackson) taught them well,” he said. “They will be a huge asset for emergency management.”
Billeaud is also over the Groves Animal Control department.
“It’s a big learning curve. I only knew bits and pieces,” he said.
He’s currently learning the city’s ordinance and the processes involved.
Jackson feels Billeaud will do a great job as the new chief.
“Lance has been a teacher for the Academy for a number of years and is well up on the trends going on in the fire service,” Jackson said. “What he did as a trainer (at the Academy) he will be able to bring that to Groves Fire Department.”
Billeaud spent 18 years at the Fire Academy and in that time trained over 700 firefighters. Some are captains in other departments, some are district chiefs, some are working in Houston and others throughout the state.
Jackson believes Billeaud will be a good chief and good leader and is excited to see what he has in store for the department.
Long-term goals includes going back to school and finishing his associates degree he started years ago when LIT dropped the class, fire science. He also wants to go and get more emergency management training and possibly obtain a bachelor’s in emergency management.
Then there’s the construction of the new fire station — something that began on Jackson’s watch.
“We’re moving into the design development stage,” Billeaud said, adding that Jackson’s expertise will be utilized.
Billeaud and wife Tracy have been married 24 years and have three children and two granddaughters.