Happy New Year 2018 and fair well to 2017! I hope each and every one experienced a happy family-fun-filled Christmas holiday. I enjoyed having some time off to enjoy Judy’s family and my family at Mom and Dad Beans. As my Dad often says, “We have beans three times a day at our meals.” Actually, I think someone counted 32 of them for Christmas dinner.
To bring you up to date on the Division, we have been very busy serving the State. The Fire Investigation Unit is up to full staff now. Deputy Chief Steve Grass hired three more investigators: Aaron Sutton who will be stationed in Warren County, Rachel McColley stationed in Ripley County, and Chad Hildebrand stationed in Webster County. We have some of the best fire investigators in the state and we pledge to continue to service you in that capacity. Please call us if you need our services day or night, 24/7/365.
The Fire Inspection Unit hired two inspectors to fill its roster. Deputy Chief Greg Dickens added Clay Allison who will be assigned to Cider County, and Dwight Francis who is assigned to Osage County. We appreciate what this unit does to ensure our facilities caring for our state’s most vulnerable citizens keep our loved ones safe.
Some months ago Governor Greitens and DPS Leadership challenged the Division to implement a veterans in transition initiative in order to draw these quality individuals into the fire service. We invited several fire training entities, fire department training officers and chiefs, military career service officers, and higher education personnel to partner with us. After several meetings and hours of discussions we are pleased to announce the kickoff/pilot offering of the Missouri Fire Fighter Veterans Initiative to be held on February 17, at the Jefferson City Fire Department. Our goal is to attract military service men and women leaving the military into the fire service, along with veterans who may have separated from service for some time, to consider the exciting and rewarding field of fire service. More information about this program can be found on our website at www.dfs.dps.mo.gov.
In the last few months we have held two very important meetings of Fire Service Leadership on the thirteenth floor. In November, we brought in career fire chiefs and training officers from throughout the state to discuss a wide array of topics from training, to legislation, to mutual aid to fire fighter health and wellness. In December, we held a similar meeting with leadership representing volunteer departments. We plan to hold these meetings several times a year, and vary the participants invited, to allow for your input and open discussion on topics which concern you and impact our fire service.
We are very proud to announce Fire Investigator Adam Crouch was awarded the Missouri State Employee of the Month for December. Adam had been awarded the Department of Public Safety Employee of the Month for November. We congratulate him on his award and are honored to have him as part of the Division of Fire Safety team!
We are also proud to announce the Division of Fire Safety’s, Salute to Service recipients for November and December. The individuals represent a drive and devotion to being the “best boots on the ground,” and certainly, “leaving things better than they find them.”
The Division of Fire Safety salutes the service of Fire Equipment Dispatcher Rodney Edwards of the St. Louis Fire Department. Rodney’s story of hard work, resourcefulness and perseverance is an inspiration to all. In 2007, Rodney lost his job and his home and wound up living in a dilapidated abandoned home. He was estranged from his family. He would remain homeless for two years, but he never gave up.
Rodney applied for and received a grant to attend St. Louis Community College in Forest Park. He showered, shaved and brushed his teeth at the school gym, and made the dean’s list.
Rodney entered an EMT program and got a job with the Northeast Ambulance and Fire Protection District. He continued his studies and earned an Emergency Medical Dispatch certificate in 2012. He later got a job with the St. Louis Fire Department as an emergency medical services dispatcher and then was promoted to fire equipment dispatcher in late 2017.
“It’s an honor to wear this uniform,” Edwards told KMOV-TV. “They saw I had drive and I had hustle, and I believed in the culture and the core values of the fire department.”
To learn more about the St. Louis Fire Department visit their Facebook page (@ StLouisFireDepartment).
The Division of Fire Safety salutes the service of two St. Louis area firefighters who have devoted their time and effort to introducing teenage girls to the opportunities provided by careers in the fire service and as paramedics and police officers.
Fenton Fire District Lieutenant Gina Anderson and Metro West Fire Protection District Firefighter/Medic Katie Wiegand worked with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri to found Camp Fury STL.
This past summer, almost 20 girls attended the week long camp that gave them a glimpse into the life of a first responder. They climbed fire trucks with ladders reaching over 100 feet, they put out fires, used the jaws of life and learned how to communicate with violent criminals in high pressure situations. Camp Fury brings female campers interested in emergency services together with mentors in the profession who are successful and ready to give back to the next generation of emergency responders.
Anderson and Wiegand have devoted several years to the effort to open what was the eighth Camp Fury in the U.S. They were determined to do it so more young women would have awareness of a career as a first responder.
Anderson and Wiegand are grateful for all the efforts and support the first responder community has provided and is looking forward to the continued success of Camp Fury for years to come.
We have a few reminders. First, it is time to complete your annual fire department registration. Please go to our website and complete your application if you have not already done so. Please also check with your neighboring departments and encourage them to do the same. It is extremely important we have up-to-date contact information and a clear picture of the state’s fire service. We are striving to get at least 75% of Missouri departments to register this year, as last year’s total of 70% was the highest ever. Please contact Matt Luetkemeyer at 573-751-2930 or Matt.Luetkemeyer@dfs.dps.mo.gov if you have any questions.
Second, the Federal Assistance to Fire Fighter Grant (AFG)/Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER) program is open. It will be closing on February 2, 2018. Go to www.usfa.fema.gov for more information.
Fire Fighter Day at the Capitol will be April 4. Our tentative plan is to start with an informational meeting on the thirteenth floor which will provide you with discussion points while visiting with your senators and representatives. We will then have a ceremony at 10:00 a.m. in the rotunda. We were recently informed the Capitol will be experiencing some exterior renovations at the time of the event, therefore no outdoor activities or displays will be allowed. Lunch may be provided at another location. Please save the date and plan on attending!
In closing, I have attended numerous funerals, retirements, and graduations over 2017. I was counting how many years of service had left the Missouri fire service just in four individuals, 150 years! My point is this, while that is many years of service leaving, I see a great group of young men and women coming on as well. They will be smarter, better trained, wearing improved equipment, and driving safer trucks, all because of the dedication and service of the ones who have walked before us. So should be our challenge, to blaze a new and improved trail for those after us. Let us continue to serve and protect with the best of our abilities our families, friends, neighbors, fellow Missourians, and anyone who crosses over our state line.
Stay safe and, “Be the best boots on the ground! Leave things better than you found them!”
J. Tim Bean
State Fire Marshal