As I write this article, I am looking out over the snowy fields of Big Cedar Lodge trying to convince myself that spring is just around the corner. At home, I have seen the signs of the impending spring; birds flying north, crocus blooming along the sidewalk and robins arriving in flocks. After what seems to have been a long winter, I welcome the thought of spring. Spring has to be one of my favorite seasons. A time of growth and renewal; not just for the trees, grass and flowers, but also of the spirit.
I can hear some asking, “Ok Greg, where are you headed with this thought?” Last article I mentioned my New Year’s resolutions, to train and get into better shape. So far, those goals are coming along well. But, I have found times in the last few months that I let the winter doldrums play a role in my personal and work life. Spring gives me a chance to examine how well I have performed and try to renew my resolve to perform my duties better and focus my energy on growth. Not just personal growth, but the growth of our division and Missouri’s fire service.
I was reminded of this very thing a week ago when I had the privilege to testify in a hearing on a legislative initiative that would give a tax deduction to volunteer firefighters who achieve a minimal level of training each year. I heard volunteer firefighters described as “selfless”, “dedicated” and “community minded,” words I echoed in my testimony to the committee hearing the legislation. I’m not certain the bill will become a law. But, I found great pride as I watched the committee members nod their heads in agreement with the sentiments being shared. I know at times it can be difficult to remember your volunteering is appreciated. In that hearing I saw that it was appreciated.
Providing protections to volunteers and volunteer retention in the fire service are two things which I feel deeply about.
We will support proposed legislation containing changes to Missouri’s Line of Duty Death benefit. These changes will result in it being less burdensome on the family of a fallen firefighter to receive the state benefit as well as mirroring the Federal benefit guidelines.
I promise I will continue to push to bring these messages to those who can make a difference in how the fire service grows in Missouri.
In February, the division was honored to be present as several community colleges came together to discuss firefighter training and education. The outcome of that meeting was community colleges will begin to work on providing equality of training through a more standardized curriculum for those choosing to attend a community college with a goal of obtaining a degree in a fire science discipline. We will keep you informed on how this progresses, but the concept was well received and bodes well for Missouri’s fire service.
As spring approaches, the opportunities for training also increase. I will be out and about the state, popping in on courses presented by our contracted training vendors. If you see me in class, be sure to take a moment to introduce yourself and please share your fire service experiences with me.
Remember April 15 is Firefighters’ Day at the Capitol. Consider coming to Jefferson City to show your support for our fire service. It is the “one voice” of the fire service that will help us advance the causes important to all of us.
Finally, I want to remind each of you once again of the importance of coming home after each emergency call. Your families, friends and communities rely on you for so much. Please remember your obligations to them as you perform your duties.
I hope all of you find a renewal of spirit and growth in the upcoming spring.
Acting State Fire Marshal