Paradis woman inspires as Firefighter of the Year 

You might call Abbie Fontenot Gaubert an inspiration to young girls who aspire to one day be a firefighter. Not only has Gaubert been part of those ranks for the past decade, she also ranks as one of the very best. 

She was recently named the Bayou Gauche Volunteer Fire Department’s Firefighter of the Year, an honor that actually added to what’s becoming a collection of notable awards in the field; Gaubert, who also works with the Paradis Volunteer Fire Department, is a two-time winner of the Paradis Firefighter of the Year honor for each of the past two years. 

She was recognized at the Bayou Gauche VFD’s annual awards ceremony earlier this month. 

After seeing firefighters in action one day when she was just 13 years old, Gaubert was inspired to want to one day join those ranks. She had to wait, but not very long – in Paradis, she was able to join the VFD’s junior firefighters program after she turned 14. 

“Growing up, it honestly wasn’t something I expected I’d really li

ke doing. I figured that’s for guys,” said Gaubert. “But I got interested in it and once I joined, I knew I wanted to keep going. I absolutely love what I do. You learn so many things about life doing this, life skills you can use forever.”

In short, she does this because she loves helping people. 

“I love my community,” Gaubert said. “If I’m not helping somebody, I feel like I’m a terrible person. I try to help whoever I can, however I can.”

Gaubert was chosen by her peers to earn the award, recognized for her dedication to the fire department, something that goes beyond answering calls out in the field. Recruiting other volunteers to make the operation the best it can be is something she’s passionate about, and she’s often gone above and beyond to lend her assistance to those efforts. 

“We’re always looking for new members and volunteers,” she said. “People don’t always realize that this is a volunteer-driven department and if we don’t have the volunteers it doesn’t work like it should – that goes beyond volunteer firefighters, but other aspects of the job, things like office work … we need those people.”

Gaubert indeed loves the work, but she discovered another love through her time as a firefighter – her husband Derek, who she met as a fellow Paradis firefighter

“I married my best friend,” Gaubert said. 

It’s not always the most enjoyable job in the world, of course. Every call to action presents a challenge of some kind, and sometimes the realities of the world a firefighter sees can be mentally taxing. 

“Any call we get can be very tough … the hardest part (about being a firefighter) is seeing fatalities. Anything involving children (badly hurt) is really difficult. We have counseling we can go to if we need to do that … it’s always tough,” Gaubert said. “We do unfortunately see some brutal things.”

She is currently the fire prevention officer and vice president at the Bayou Gauche department, while at Paradis she has earned the rank of lieutenant. 

Gaubert said she does hope to inspire others to volunteer and make a positive impact in their community, especially young people. 

“I love kids. I work at the library as a children’s programmer,” Gaubert said. “I tell them they can always come by the station to see us in action, and if they see a lime green or yellow fire truck then it’s most likely going to be me. 

“I definitely think it’s cool to know someone might look up to me. My nephews do and I’m so glad they do … I tell the kids that when you turn 14, this is absolutely something you can do.”

 

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