It was a night of heroes for Biloxi Fire Department

Selfless acts of heroism by first responders and civilians at the multi-casualty train-charter bus incident in downtown Biloxi in 2017 dominated the Biloxi Fire Department’s inaugural awards ceremony Monday night, but also saw firefighters recognized for off-duty gallantry and volunteerism. 

Nearly 200 awards were presented during the 75-minute ceremony at the Dr. Frank G. Gruich Sr. Community Center.

Biloxi firefighters were honored for their response to the March 2017 incident where four people were killed when a charter bus was hit by a CSX freight train at the Main Street rail crossing. Firefighters, along with supporting agencies and civilians, were recognized for responding to a catastrophe of “monumental proportions that involved mutual aid from numerous agencies. Within the span of one hour and six minutes from the time the first responder arrived on scene, 50 patients had received treatment and were loaded for transport to a medical facility.”

Several firefighters were awarded Medals of Merit for specific actions at the incident – two firefighters (Brodie Fontaine and Justin Lopez) for assisting a victim trapped under the still-running locomotive – and others  for helping coordinate the overall response. Clergy members were acknowledged for their response at the scene, and the audience applauded when Biloxi Fire Chief Joe Boney presented an award to Biloxi resident John Kemp, who witnessed the incident and positioned his new car next to the crippled bus to serve as a platform for those evacuating.

But it was also a night where firefighters were recognized for off-duty acts of heroism and volunteerism: There was the firefighter Charlie Hebert who rescued a family of four whose boat had capsized in the Bay of Biloxi; Fire Capt. Matt Powell, who, while on a family outing, revived a child who had drowned nearby, or the team of firefighters who, after responding to a Woolmarket medical call, returned the next day, off duty, to repair a rotting kitchen floor with materials they had purchased. 
See the complete list of honorees and their feats
Gallery: Dozens of photos from the awards ceremony


News and notes

Ribbon cutting at Ohr-O’Keefe:  The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art will official re-open its Mississippi Sound Welcome Center on Monday at 11 a.m. The center, one of five buildings on the Ohr campus in east Biloxi, reopened weeks ago after having been closed since August of last year after an electrical fire. The ceremony on Monday is free and open to the public.  To see more about the museum, click here.

Looking back at Christmas on the Water: The Biloxi Christmas on the Water committee has released a 16-minute video of the 2017 Christmas on the Water boat parade. The video, produced by Take Two Video, is now on the city’s YouTube channel. To see it now, click here.

State of the City:  The annual State of the City luncheon will be Tuesday, Jan. 30 at 11 a.m. at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. Tickets to the Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce event are $40 a person or $400 a table. For details, call 228-435-6149. The complete report also will be shown online and on Cable One on Wednesday, Jan. 31. 

MLK Weekend: The community’s annual program to honor the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. begins Friday and will be capped on Monday with an MLK parade in downtown Gulfport. This year’s celebration commemorates the 50th anniversary of the death of the storied Civil Rights leader.  To see more on “MLK50,” click here