Groves’ Foret named Firefighter of the year; first to win award twice

GROVES — Billy Foret’s dedication to Groves Fire Department hasn’t gone unnoticed by his peers.

Foret, who’s career with the department spans 38 years, recently earned the Otis Barnes Firefighter of the Year award making him the first at the station to earn the designation twice. The first time was in 1993.

Longtime friend and retired fire captain Brad Corley had nothing but praise for Foret.

“He’s an outstanding individual,” Corley said. “He’s very sincere with his job and always has had the best interest of the citizens of Groves when it comes to his job. He goes above and beyond.”

Foret himself was surprised when he was named recipient of the award recently. He called attention to the others in the department who work hard as well including the devoted volunteers.

“I have a lot of respect for the volunteers. They understand,” Foret said regarding the responsibilities and time spent away from family.”

The Groves native began his work with the fire department as community service while a Boy Scout at the age of 13. The chief at that time wanted to teach young men what firefighters did, he said.

The issue was brought to city council that set a minimum age of 16 but Foret was too young. Instead he was able to hang out with the firefighters for a while then performed more community service while working on his Eagle Scout rank.

Then, when he reached the age of 15 the rules were changed. He later became a Groves Junior Volunteer Firefighter where he worked with Corley and the current chief Dale Jackson among others.

Upon high school graduation in 1977, Foret applied for the position of firefighter and joined the department that November.

“At one time in the 1980’s there were only seven paid firefighters here and five of those started as junior volunteers,” he said. “Today we have about 43. That seems like yesterday.”

His devotion to firefighting comes from his scoutmasters who believed community service was very important.

“And after seeing what firefighters do to help people, that’s the biggest thing that drew me to it,” he said.

Foret looked back at highlights of his career including 2005’s Hurricane Rita.

“A lot of people go through their career without something of this magnitude happening,” he said.

First responders took on multiple roles before, during and after the disaster and Foret was part of a core group of firefighters who helped. He was appointed liaison between the city of Groves and Crowder Gulf, a disaster recovery and debris management company hired to help the area.

He said it was a challenge but just days after returning to the city he had helped established a contract and a plan to clean the city.

“We had a simple concept in mind, pick it up and move it out,” he said.

Debris removal was performed way ahead of expectations, he said. He remembers working late into the night and taking a cat nap the following morning only to be awoken to learn contractors were in town to help restore electricity.

Corley remembers those days as well.

“After the hurricane Billy was a key player in the process of putting the city of Groves back together, more or less,” Corley said. “He was at the station and I was at the EOC (emergency operations center).”

Foret has seen a lot through his years as a firefighter — the good and the bad.

“In this business we are able to affect people during the worst time in their life,” Foret said. “Although they don’t owe us, they (public) support us. I can walk into a public place, a restaurant or grocery store, make eye contact and get a smile. The only way they know me is that we worked a fire at their home or a wreck they were in and any time we calls for the public’s support, they’re here for us.”

Corley said Foret usually has some input in most things the department is involved in.

“He may not be in the spotlight but he’s doing what needs to be done for it to be successful,” Corley said.

E-mail: mary.meaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews

 

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