Sam Haubert remembers the moment when, early on in his career, he did something he can’t begin to imagine doing again 32 years later – the 20-year-old tugged at a potentially conducive nylon rope with his hands, the end of which was tied to a cribbing of wood that had been tossed to catch a live power line.
Just minutes before, the downed power line had come loose from a utility pole, falling along a treacherous path from many feet in the air to a mobile home park below.
The line remained live and started a brush fire next to one of the trailer homes, a car nearby, and scared the seven inhabitants of one mobile home into fleeing to a car outside.
When that car made contact with another next to it still energized by the live power line, all seven family members “died just like that,” said Mr. Haubert.
“We tied about a two foot piece of four-by-four so we could wind it up around this braided nylon rope and slung it across that power line. My partner threw it and draped it and we’re both looking at this rope thinking: ‘who’s going to pick this up?’”
I was the guy who did it.”
For Sam Haubert, who earlier this month was named the new Glades Battalion Chief, that moment was when he came to fully understand the danger that could present itself to fire fighters. It is why he appreciates the group of men and women he has inherited in his new role.
“They earn their money. They work hard. They really make the fire department. They make Palm Beach County Fire Rescue in the Glades because of their work ethic. They don’t stop until they get the job done.”
As the head of the Glades Battalion, Chief Haubert will now oversee all fire rescue operations in the Glades communities of Belle Glade, South Bay, Pahokee and unincorporated areas. He is replacing former Battalion Chief Joey Cooper, and intends to be as accessible as longtime District Chief Steven Rice.
Prior to coming to the Glades, Chief Haubert spent 15 years in the suburban Lake Worth and West Palm Beach area. For approximately one and a half years of that time, the chief spent every Monday in the Glades (Chief Rice’s day off).
His beginnings in the 1980s were with the Martin County Fire Department as a volunteer, after which he went to work for the Jupiter Fire Control District, which later became absorbed by Palm Beach County Fire Rescue.
Chief Haubert’s initial informal risk analysis for the communities has found that “we’re [fire rescue] equipped appropriately, we’re staffed appropriately, and we’re in the right places to satisfy call volume.”
As a result, the new chief will be focused on promoting more and effective safety programs in area schools.
While most people have learned the essentials, including early age lessons like stop, drop and roll, and how to dial 911, times are changing and new programs must be promoted to continue keeping children safe from all dangers, Chief Haubert said.
One of those programs is Riskwatch, which focuses not only on fire safety, but on current issues facing society today, including gun violence and illicit drugs.
“What do we want a child to do when they find a weapon? What do we want a child to do when they find a bullet? What we want their response to be when trouble starts is not to stand there and to get away from those kinds of things,” the chief said.
Chief Haubert is no stranger to the life of a fire fighter. He is a third-generation fire fighter who grew up around professional fire fighters.
“My father was a professional fire fighter. Both my brothers are professional fire fighters, and now I have a nephew who’s in the profession. My wife is a retired fire fighter from Martin County – that’s where I met her, actually,” said the chief, who originally had resolved to pursue a career in the medical field.
“I had an interest in being a physician, but when I started working for the fire department, it became incredibly infectious. You become absorbed in it and you realize how important it is.”
Chief Haubert has an 11-year-old son, and lives with his wife in St. Lucie County. He likes the small-town feeling in the Glades communities and hopes to continue becoming more and more entrenched in them.
He already has a good head-start, with former Chief Rice having introduced him to many area residents.
“The members of the community, the civic groups, people like the folks at the board of The Glades Initiative and other organizations were so welcoming and friendly and free with information and that made it tremendously easy for me to transition into a job.
“It’s a nice community. It’s got a nice feel to it.”