As most of you know, State Fire Marshal Randy Cole retired on April 30th after nearly 28 years with the Division. In 1986, Randy left his position as a deputy with the Cole County Sheriff’s Department to begin his career with the Division. Over the years, he served as an investigator, regional supervisor and assistant fire marshal before taking the position of state fire marshal in 2005. I had the privilege and honor of serving as his assistant state fire marshal over the last 8 ½ years. I personally learned a great deal from him over that time period. I wanted to extend my thanks to all who attended Randy’s retirement reception on April 22, and offered words of appreciation for his service to Missouri’s first responders. The fact he received resolutions from both Missouri’s House and the Senate as well as a Governor’s proclamation speaks volumes of the relationships he forged in his efforts to move the Division and fire service forward. His leadership will be missed. We wish him the best in his retirement or whatever future endeavor he chooses. I do fear for the safety of the Lake of the Ozarks crappie population. Perhaps we can persuade him to host a fish fry in the near future.
I would also like to thank all the Division staff who assisted in preparation for Randy’s reception. This was no small task and only went as well as it did due to the team effort put forth by all of our staff. Additional thanks go to Chief Greg Brown for coordinating the House and Senate resolutions.
April 22 was also the annual Fire Fighter’s Day at the Capitol. While my duties kept me tied down most of the day, I was able to make a pass through the capitol building and grounds. The aerial fire apparatus flying the flag and the training props stationed around the capitol’s driveway made for a memorable sight. The vendors also had informational displays on the third floor rotunda. I hear the hot wings provided for lunch were delicious. I applaud all who were able to participate and spend a little time in Jefferson City providing our elected officials with the local perspective of fire service. Your efforts have paid off many times in the past years.
Speaking of your efforts with our elected officials, the budget for our training funds continues to be positive. The Senate held budget committee hearings and after all was said and done, the additional training monies added by the House were still in place. We appreciate the Senate Committee’s recognition of the need to fund fire service training. As I write this, the Senate is scheduled to begin floor debate on the budget and we are hopeful the funding will remain intact. I want to thank all those who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to keep those fire training dollars in our budget.
While the legislative season is winding down, activities at the capitol will only increase for the remainder of the session. There are currently several pieces of legislation in the mix including burn bans, line of duty death revisions and an unwelcome revisiting of the sunset clause to the mandatory residential sprinkler option language. We are beginning to see large omnibus bills containing many varied provisions. These can change daily and can become somewhat difficult to keep a handle on. I cannot predict how the pending legislation will ultimately shakeout as the session draws to a close, but the Division will remain proactive in identifying any changes which may negatively impact Missouri’s fire service. If you have questions about legislation, please feel free to give us a call.
The annual Fire Fighter’s Memorial Service is scheduled for May 17 and 18 in Kingdom City at the Fire Fighter’s Memorial. On Saturday evening, May 17, there will be a candlelight service beginning at dusk honoring not only the three line of duty deaths, but also a number of fire fighters who passed away during or prior to 2013.
The following firefighter Line of Duty Deaths will be honored on Sunday, May 18, beginning at 10:30 a.m.
• Assistant Chief Harold Hollingsworth – Fort Osage Fire Protection District – April 7, 2013
• Lieutenant Matthew Blankenship – Marshfield Fire Protection District – July 20, 2013
• Assistant Chief Joe Darr – Chillicothe Fire Department – September 4, 2013
For those of you who may have never attended the ceremonies, it is certainly a service worthy of those being honored. It is always well attended, but I look forward to packing the memorial site with members of fire service and our first responder communities to demonstrate to the families, friends and departments of the fallen fire fighters that we support them in spirit and presence.
One final thought. Even with the current wet weather, we are moving into the summer fire season. We hope this will be a slow year for natural cover fires, but as Missouri’s weather is ever changing, so are the fire conditions. We field many questions weekly about burn bans or burn advisories. I look at those regulatory options as only part of the equation. We need to continue to educate our communities about the risk of brush fires during extreme weather conditions. That education may not only prevent the property damage caused by natural cover fires, but also provide for the safety of those who respond on those hot summer days to suppress the fires.
If the Division of Fire Safety may be of any assistance to you or your agency, we are just a call or click away. We exist to support our partners in fire service. Stay safe!
Assistant State Fire Marshal