Ascension Parish firefighters recognized at Appreciation Day

Charlotte Guedry
New York firefighter Paul Cummings is making a name for himself on the country music circuit. He performed his hit, 'The Firefighter Song," at the Appreciation Day event.

Saturday, May 7, was an enjoyable and emotional day for the firefighters of Ascension Parish, as they were recognized at the first Ascension Parish Firemen’s Recognition Day.

The all-day event held at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center was designed to pay tribute to the men and women of the parish who tirelessly give of themselves for the safety and protection of the Ascension community.

Honors and awards were bestowed on members of the firefighting brotherhood, and entertainment was also provided.

A special guest, all the way from New York, was on-hand to show his respect to the volunteers and workers.

Paul Cummings, a 27-year-old rising star on the country music scene, sang his hit ‘The Firefighter Song’ to an appreciative audience.

Cummings, a volunteer firefighter in Bergen, New York, felt that the time had come for him and others in the entertainment industry to pay homage to all that these men and women do.

“When I was a little kid, my dad was Chief of our fire department,” Cummings said. “Every Saturday and Sunday I’d go with him when he got a call. By the time I was 18, I was hooked and became a fully fledged firefighter.”

Combining his love of the fire department with his passion for music, led to Cummings focusing his attentions on firefighters.

He is about to go on a national tour of fire departments, and the event at Lamar-Dixon gave him an insight into what he could expect.

“Phyllis Melancon  sent me a message on Facebook about coming here to perform,” he said. ”I sent one back saying that if I could make it happen, then I would. She called me every day for about a week, and really got the plans in motion. This experience has really opened my eyes to the goodness of the people I’m about to meet on my tour. I’ve really appreciated the opportunity.”

Cummings is honored to be a part of the brotherhood of firefighters, and feels that the tradition is a long-standing one in the United States.

“75 percent of the firefighters in America are volunteers,” he said. “Just like back in the United States in 1776, when everyone volunteered their time so that we could become an independent nation, men and women volunteer their time today. Simply to help fellow Americans, time is volunteered. That’s wonderful to be a part of.”

‘The Firefighter Song’ is Cummings’ first foray into writing a country anthem to support local firefighters. The idea came to him after two rather unsettling fires he attended.

“I went out and fought a mill fire when my daughter was only two days old,” he said. “I went up on the second story, and had to run out when the ceiling collapsed. I almost didn’t make it. A week later, a family of four lost their lives in a fire in the same area. I kept looking at my daughter, and was so grateful that she and I were still around for each other. The song blossomed from there.”

Becoming a fireman in his local community has had a huge impact on Cummings, and he feels that the men and women being honored at the event feel the same abut their own lives.

“Volunteering to really help is a great way to feel good about yourself,” he said. “These men and women go into situations where the tide can very easily start to turn. They risk their all for the public and for each other. It’s amazing to see that what we all do makes such a huge difference in our local communities.”

Cummings certainly enjoyed his first time in Louisiana, and was thankful for all that the men and women of the Ascension Parish fire departments had to offer him.

I’ve been surrounded by fire chiefs and their friends and family since I arrived,” he said. “They’ve taken us many places and we’ve seen how the parish operates its departments. It’s been an honor and a privilege to be allowed to be a art of that. That coupled with some great tasting jambalaya has been fantastic!”