Forever Spencer: Fire station renamed after Chauvin

Published 12:14 am Wednesday, September 13, 2017

LAPLACE — The St. Andrews fire station in LaPlace will forever be known as Spencer Chauvin Memorial Station.

St. John Fire Services Chief Cain Dufrene said it is his goal that every fireman going to that station from this point forward knows who Spencer was.

“Any fireman that works for this parish for years to come will know about Spencer because of that station and the things we will do over there to honor him,” Dufrene said.

Jude and Jade Chauvin stand by the sign memorializing their father.

The name change was unveiled Aug. 28, a year after Chauvin, a St. John district fire chief, was killed during wreck scene response on Interstate 10.

“I thought it was one of the smallest ways we could honor what he did for this community,” Dufrene said. “That was the last station he responded out of, that is where he ran his shifts from. It was only fitting that we pick that station to show just a little bit of who he is.”

Local and state officials joined Spencer’s family and friends in the dedication ceremony.

Spencer’s children, son Jude and daughter Jade, were front and center for the event.

Spencer’s mother, Donna Chauvin, said it was a fitting tribute for her son, but one that would have made him a little embarrassed because of his selflessness.

“He was a humble person,” she said. “He would have never thought of putting himself first over anyone else. If he had to help someone, it wouldn’t even dawn on him if it was safe or not. He would just do what he had to do because it was the right thing to do.”

Donna said Spencer would be smiling from “ear to ear” to think of a station named in his honor, adding it would never have been in “his wildest dreams” to imagine such an honor.

“If it would have happened to any of his other brothers or firemen, he would have gone out of his way to make sure everything was done to honor them,” she said.

Dufrene, an 18-year veteran of firefighting, said Spencer had his hand in everything, always adding input through the fire department.

“The way it stands today, in some little way, Spencer had some influence in that,” Dufrene said. “If he didn’t agree with something, he wasn’t afraid to let you know. His way of doing things was to make sure he was involved in every little thing we did.”

Dufrene said that was never more clear than on Spencer’s shift, where he made sure firefighters understood how he wanted things done.

Since the tragedy in August 2016, Dufrene said he is glad to know firefighters Nick Saale and Mack Beal — also injured in the wreck that killed Spencer and threw them over a guardrail into swampy waters some 40 feet below — have returned to work for the department.

Dufrene also added the last 12 months has seen the largest growth in the department’s volunteer force in recent memory.

The memory of last year’s tragedy is never forgotten, Dufrene said.

“We try to cater to the guys as much as possible, especially the two injured guys coming back,” Dufrene said. “We wanted to make sure we had an atmosphere that was comfortable for those guys to transition from and feel safe and secure in their job. Both of those guys are doing real well. They are both back to fulltime.”

Dufrene credited Saale for taking it upon himself to secure a lot of extra training.

“My worry was this kind of thing would effect those two, but it reaches the whole department,” Dufrene said. “We all had to respond to that call to assist in something that we never thought would happen to our own people. I am really proud of the way the guys responded. They all came to work and are still doing their jobs.”