Written by Guest Blogger Michael Landress of the Boynton Beach Fire Department
The 1970s were the beginning of the paramedic program for the Boynton Beach Fire Department. Fireman Gene Kight is credited with initiating the program along with medical directors Richard Vollrath and Charles Akes.
Gene became somewhat of a reluctant celebrity in the early ‘70s. On May 7, 1974, Gene was returning home from Miami after visiting with the City of Miami Fire Department’s Rescue Division. Traveling north on Interstate 95, Gene was waved down by other motorists and asked to assist in the rescue attempt of a crane operator working nearby.
The operator had raised the boom of the crane tangling it in a web of overhead high tension electrical wires. The man was actually being electrocuted as Gene approached the scene. In a perilous move, and with nothing more than a pair of gloves for protection, Gene pulled the man from the crane, thus saving his life. Gene received third degree burns to his left arm.
Gene’s bravery did not go unnoticed by the local newspapers. Numerous articles were featured in the papers calling Gene a true hero. Miami Fire Chief, D.A. Hickman, sent a letter to Boynton Beach Fire Chief E. Wright on Gene’s behalf.
Perhaps the most exciting recognition he received was a letter of appreciation from the President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford. Gene was also named the “1974 Florida Fireman of the Year” by the Florida State Firemen’s Association for his unselfish act of heroism.
Gene continued his work in developing and enhancing the paramedic program until his retirement in 1997. Author’s note; although I did not have the opportunity to work with Gene during his distinguished career, I have had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions, and believe it when I write, he is a quiet hero!
Michael Landress is a native Floridian and novice historian. He has spent the previous 15 years as a professional firefighter/paramedic for the City of Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department. He holds a BA from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida and his hobbies include; spending time with his two teenage sons, writing, photography, supporting the Miami Dolphins and saltwater fishing.