It’s a rarity that you find a person who is so full of life and positivity that every encounter can instantly brighten your day. For the community of Paris and the boys of the Paris Fire Department, they say that person was 24-year old firefighter Layton Slade Baker.
“Go for Donnie,” said Paris Fire Department firefighter Corey Parks. It was how Baker would always answer the phone, immediately bringing a smile to whoever was on the other end.
“He was always happy,” said Paris Fire Department Driver Engineer Connor Wideman, ”when you came on to shift in the morning, checked the truck assignments and saw that Baker was riding with you, you just knew it would be a great shift.”
The Paris Fire Department was rocked to their core on Sunday, Oct. 20, when they responded to a vehicle accident on SE Loop 286. This is when they found out that the single occupant involved, who succumbed to his injuries, was one of their own.
Layton Slade Baker, who was affectionately known to the crew as ‘Donnie,’ had been with the department since April 2017. A native of Louisiana, Baker made his way into the department and the hearts of all that met him.
He was assigned to B-Shift throughout his time with the PFD, though it wasn’t a surprise to find him working overtime with another shift.
Speaking with his fellow brothers of the department, they fondly recalled that more than once, Baker would be working 4 or 5 days in a row just to help fill the void and make sure there were enough hands on deck should a call come in.
“He was always there. Whether it be an event for work, or we got together for a barbeque, it just didn’t matter to him. He would always turn up with a big smile and ready to have fun,” Wideman said.
“He was an excellent firefighter, always striving to better himself both professionally and as a person. Slade loved life and was always smiling, yet he was the first to offer help to anyone who needed it. He had a true servant’s heart. No matter whether you were lucky enough to either know Slade on a personal basis or had met him in passing, he left a lasting impression on all,” said Paris Fire Department Assistant Chief Thomas McMonigle.
From the moment he entered the station during the interview process, the crew of B-Shift said they knew he had that x-factor about him. Saying that one of his best traits was his confidence in himself, which in the fire world can not always be a desirable attribute.
“It was Donnie; he just had this infectious confidence. He said what he needed to say, and that was just him,” said Parks.
Not one to shy away from anything, Baker was known to have never met a stranger.
“It’s hard to replace a guy like that who always wanted to step up and always wanted to learn more,” said Driver Engineer Dustin Huff.
“He was always there, whether it be working out, or to help even in a small way, he was the first to be there and show up,” said Wideman.
Baker left behind not only his Paris Fire Department family but also his parents, two brothers and a sister, alongside nieces and nephews and a host of family and friends.
An outpouring of love has been seen across social media, but the one common aspect of all the messages to Bakers family is the love of the job he had, the love of his family and friends, the love for Jesus and of course his infectious smile that touched all who met him.
“Slade taught me what it meant to push my limits to grow spiritually, physically, and professionally. He dedicated his life to his family, friends, fire service, and, most importantly, Jesus Christ. He was a servant in every sense of the word. His loss leaves a huge void, but every single person he came into contact with is better off because of him,” said firefighter Adam Bolton.
From his love of a pair of yellow and purple LSU inspired overalls to his joyful spirit to live life to its fullest; the crew of the Paris Fire Department said they will keep his memory alive, never to be forgotten, and will keep laughing as Baker would have wanted that.
Baker was lovingly returned to his home town of Blanchard LA accompanied by two representatives of the Paris Fire Department, on Monday, Oct. 21. His viewing for family and friends was Tuesday with his service and final farewell held on Wednesday, Oct. 23. The family requested those who attend to give him the LSU Tiger send-off that he would have loved to see, proudly don the famous purple and gold colors.
On Oct. 23 at 8 a.m., first responders across Lamar County held silent over the scanner as Baker was paged one last time – a final tribute from the first responder family on the day family and friends bid their final farewells
Family, friends, and members of the public can purchase a t-shirt designed in memoriam of Baker with all proceeds going to his family. To purchase a shirt, click here