Firefighters honor long time district chief

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA. (KPLC) -A 36 year veteran of the Lake Charles Fire Department was laid to rest this afternoon... District Chief BillyBbergeron lost his battle with cancer this week. He received full honors as family, friends and his family of firefighters bid him farewell.

Sirens wailed as fire trucks moved from church to graveyard--in honor of one who dedicated his life to public service as a firefighter. Bergeron's casket rode aboard a truck so familiar as he responded to calls for help. Explains LCFD Chief Keith Murray, "That fire truck came from one of the stations that he was chief of, Station 4 which is 18th and Creole."

And in this his final journey, fellow firefighters always at his side. It's a tradition Murray says goes way back.  "You ride on the fire truck because you're a chief and you deserve that right. It's part of our honor. And they stay there with you touching you until you go into the ground. We never leave your side until you go into the ground."

It's a farewell rich in symbolism-- meant to reflect the devotion with which Bergeron did his duty as a Lake Charles firefighter.  At the cemetery a bell rings.  There are three rings three times...representing the end of a fireman's duties. Says Murray, "The bell represents going home at fireman's funeral at the graveside."

And finally the voice of a radio dispatcher breaks the silence.  "This is the last call for District Chief Billy Bergeron."  The dispatcher ceremoniously calls for him three times and then announces, " No contact. Chief Bergeron, you are relieved of duty."

Says Murray, "The way we do things here goes back a couple hundred years. Irish were the traditional firemen. They were policemen and firemen. And that's the way Irish honored their dead. I can't think, that if you went and asked all 181 firemen, could you find anyone that would say they had a beef with Billy, ever."

Bergeron's legacy carries on through two sons William and Bryan..who follow in his footsteps as Lake Charles firefighters.

Bergeron was sixty years old and a member of firefighters Local 561. He leaves behind a wife, three children, two step children and 8 grand children.

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