Memorials bring back memories for Biloxi fire chief

When Fire Chief Joe Boney and current and retired Biloxi firefighters gather at the gravesites of Kurt Jacquet Sr. and Carl Ohr Thursday morning, Boney will be thinking back to that day 30 years ago when he and Jacquet swapped firefighting shifts.

Jacquet and Ohr died in the early morning hours on Oct 20, 1986 fighting a fire in a house that was improperly drawing a portion of its electricity from a wire strung to an adjacent home.

“Kurt was a shrimper and he had the day off that day, but for reasons I can’t recall he could not go shrimping,  so I swapped days off with him,” Boney said. “I was called in to that fire in the early morning hours, and to this day I still wonder if that could have been me.”

Firefighters at the home on Reynoir Street had understood that electricity had been disconnected from the structure, but were unaware of the illegal connection. When Ohr’s air tank ran low inside the home, Jacquet tried to help his fellow firefighter, even throwing his own helmet out a nearby window, a firefighter’s sign of distress.

The loss of the two firefighters – the second and third to be lost in the department’s 133-year history – led  to sweeping changes in how the Biloxi Fire Department would battle structure fires. Now at each fire a battalion chief is positioned at a vantage point where he can direct and monitor the entire scene, always aware of the location of every firefighter.

Each year, on the anniversary of the tragedy, Biloxi firefighters gather at the Ohr’s and Jacquet’s gravesites to conduct a simple remembrance and place flowers at the two graves. This year’s memorial, about a 15-minute ceremony, will begin at 9 a.m. at Jacquet’s grave site in the Old Biloxi Cemetery. Those attending will then travel to Southern Memorial Park off U.S. 90 for a service at Ohr’s gravesite.

“The families told us a number of years ago that we didn’t have to do this every year,” Boney said. “But I think it’s important for the members of this department to remember; to make our firefighters very aware of the dangers of this job, and to know that each time they work, they may be placed in a situation in which they will not make it home.  This memorial is a way for our department to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and also to keep safety a priority.”
See photos of Jacquet, Ohr, fire museum display


News and notes

Zoning issue:  The Biloxi Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing on Thursday at 2 p.m.  to consider a zoning change that could make way for Margaritaville Phase II, a $140 million proposal that was announced during a recent City Council meeting. For background on the issue, click here.

Infrastructure work: A new monthly video of progress is in the works for the infrastructure project in east Biloxi, but you can take a look back at the month-old video now.  To see the two-minute report, as well as an archive of previous reports, click here.

City social media: Followers of the city’s Facebook and Twitter accounts receive status reports on issues  and photos of events regularly. To see how you can follow the city on Facebook or Twitter for breaking news, click here.