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History’s Corner – January 2018

THE VERY EARLY DAYS

The St. Joseph, Missouri fire service began in the 1850’s. Various political groups buy and establish fire companies with little standardization of equipment. These various firefighting groups both competed and cooperated at scenes. St. Joseph councilman General William R. Penick began a campaign to establish a professional fire department in St. Joseph in 1860. In 1865 this plan was completed with the election of General Penick as mayor of the City of St. Joseph.

In 1860 the citizens of St. Joseph approved a $25,000 bond for the establishment of a professional fire department. The uncertainties of the Civil War delayed the implementation of the plan. In 1864 the city council now guided by Mayor Penick approved $5,000 for the purchase of a steam powered fire pump. In May of 1865, the mayor presented the steam fire pumper named ”Black Snake” to the community.

The steam pumper was an awesome piece of equipment that could develop pumping pressures up to 165 pounds per square inch. Unlike the “Water Witch”, the unit already in service in the city, which required human powered and lots of it to develop pump pressure. Needless to say, there was a significant competition that developed between the two fire companies. At fire scenes, occasionally fire streams would be redirected from the fire toward member of the opposing fire companies. Continue Reading →

History’s Corner – November 2017

Over the last fifty or so years that I have been blessed with the opportunity to interact with fire service people, I have encountered some really awesome folks. In the 1960’s and 70’s, my position with the University of Missouri allowed me to travel to literally hundreds of fire department’s in the state and teach classes in remote, small communities as well as the metro area’s.

Since it is a beautiful Fall day here in Branson and I am on my back deck writing this article, I am reminded of another Fall day in the late 60’s when my travels took me to the small community of Doniphan for a class we called “Basic Firemanship.” This was a futile attempt to cram everything a community needed to know about firefighting into four classes that took three hours to complete on four consecutive evenings. Continue Reading →

History Corner – September 2017

To some folks that experienced this day in 2001, it seems like yesterday; to others a fleeting memory. It is also astounding to me that there are kids in our country that are now driving age, including my youngest grandson, who were not even born when this attack on our country occurred.

It was the first foreign attack on the United States mainland in almost two centuries and the largest firefighter life loss ever in one incident. Three hundred forty three firefighters and officers of the New Your City Fire Department died as a result of American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of fuel struck the 80th floor of the North tower of the World Trade Center. Eighteen minutes later a second Boeing 767, United Air Lines flight 175 slammed into the 60th floor of the South Tower! Continue Reading →

History Corner – July 2017

MISSOURI TASK FORCE 1

THE NATIONAL URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE RESPONSE SYSTEM

FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces are teams of individuals specializing in urban search and rescue, disaster recovery, and emergency triage and medicine. The teams are deployed to emergency and disaster sites within six hours of notification. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) created the task force concept in 1989 to provide support for large-scale disasters.

There are twenty-eight task forces in the country, each sponsored by a local agency. In the event of a major incident in the United States, the nearest three task forces will be activated and sent to the site of the disaster. If the situation warrants, additional teams will be activated. Continue Reading →

History Corner – May 2017

The most unique fire department in the state is a part of the College of the Ozarks (C of O) in Southwest Missouri. Based on their motto “Hard Work U”, the College of the Ozarks is also one of the most unique educational institutions in our nation.

Founded as the faith based School of the Ozarks in 1906, the institution was formed to provide primary and secondary education to children in the hill country of the Ozarks without sufficient means to procure such training. The school was the dream of a young Presbyterian Minister by the name of Reverend James Forsythe.

His dream continued to grow over the years and in 1956, a two-year Junior College was added. In 1990 the Board of Trustees voted to change the name of the institution to “College of the Ozarks” and since then the programs and facilities have grown to become one of the leading educational institutions in the nation. Continue Reading →

History Corner – March 2017

The City of Branson’s new engine on display at the Winter Fire School “Fire Expo” in Columbia.

Anyone who has been in the fire service for any length of time knows that it is a profession that is filled with tradition. Many of the things that are done and have been done in the past date back to colonial days and as far reaching as biblical days. Our badges and symbols of rank reflect the use of the firefighters tools of historic days when the Chief Officers would direct operation with a device now only used as a retirement gift with inscriptions on it.

It is also well know that some of our rituals, such as hanging on the side or back step of fast moving apparatus are things that need to be kept in our past – or – the gauge of a firefighters capability was how much “smoke he or she could eat”.

We also have a number of “rights of passage” that are very traditional. When a “rookie” or recruit moves from that status into a full fledged firefighting member of a fire department, we provide them with a different color helmet than was worn as a fledgling member. The same is true with each elevation in rank, and with that movement up in stature, a change in the color of helmet and badge designation. Continue Reading →

History’s Corner – November 2016

hc-1When I was a young lad growing up in O’Fallon I had several opportunities to accompany my Dad to fire schools and other fire meetings in St. Louis County. I noticed when attending these meetings that several staff vehicles had license plates that used the letters F.P.D after the name of the organization. I was considered a rather bright child, but those abbreviations were confusing to me and at first I thought this was some kind of combined fire and police unit. Keep in mind that this was the 1950’s and I was not yet a “teen know it all.” So, when you don’t know something, you ask your Dad. The first thing he did was chastise me for being so “damn dumb” and not looking at the lettering on the door of the vehicle because there it clearly spelled out that this was the fire chief’s staff vehicle from the Mehlville Fire Protection District. This was my very first lesson learning about fire districts in my home state. Little did I know at the time that I was destined to spend most of my life dealing with fire districts and fire departments.

EARLY FIRE DISTRICTS AND OTHER ORGANIZATION MODELS

The original statute that created fire protection districts in Missouri was passed in 1947. The legislature at the time assumed that the only place the fire service needed to be improved was in first class counties which was the reason I saw so may different fancy fire district staff cars at meetings in St. Louis County. Currently there are 23 fire protection districts and 20 municipal fire departments in St. Louis County. Continue Reading →

History’s Corner – Spetember 2016

hc-1Early in my career, I had the opportunity to complete my education at Oklahoma State University. For years before I attended there, it was known as the “West Point of the Fire Service”. Professor R.J. Douglas was the head of the School of Fire Protection and the founder of the School. In 1959 when I enrolled. It was one of the few educational institutions in the country that offered a formal degree in fire protection. After my fire protection degree was completed, I stayed and received a bachelors and masters degree in industrial education.

This long-winded description of my education is necessary to set the stage for the story I am about to tell. After I went to work at the University of Missouri, my Mother was continually after me to work on a doctorate in education, since I worked for a major educational institution. My excuse to her was always the same reply. “Mom, the two titles don’t match up, you can not use the term ‘doctor’ with the title of ‘chief.’ How would you do that, chief doctor or doctor chief?”

Well, as usual the individual who is the subject of this article proved me wrong. Doctor/Chief James C. Coleberd is that person. Jim was a unique person and as his life’s adventure played out, he proved you can be anything you want to be and do anything you want to do. All you have to do is have a strong desire to do it. Continue Reading →