Fire Fighters Association of Missouri
Archive | Bill Westhoff RSS feed for this section

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 →

History’s Corner – July 2016

Veterans Day Parade in Branson with Scout Troop and the 1939 Chevrolet Central Apparatus. Three of my grand sons are in this troop and my son in law is the Scoutmaster.

Veterans Day Parade in Branson with Scout Troop and the 1939 Chevrolet Central Apparatus. Three of my grand sons are in this troop and my son in law is the Scoutmaster.

I have a next-door neighbor, Chris Ely, who is a Branson firefighter and an avid collector of all things old and fire related. I’m fairly sure that is why he likes me! He came over a couple of months ago to show me a new fire publication that he was receiving called “Vintage Fire Truck”. Having somewhat of a passion for old fire “stuff” myself, I immediately took out a subscription. After receiving a copy or two, I thought it would be fun to write about antique fire apparatus and several have come to mind. Over the last several years most of my article have been about people and places in the fire service and now we can check out some “things” in the form of apparatus.

Our family has owned a 1939 Chevrolet /Central open cab pumper since we purchased it from Montgomery City Missouri in 1978. Some of our kids have been married on it, and it has been the centerpiece for lots of parades and weddings, as well as a couple of funerals over the years. Our grand kids have gone to forth of July celebrations on it and most recently the transportation of Scout troops for the annual Veterans Day Parade here in Branson. Continue Reading →

History’s Corner – May 2016

hc2Any readers of the FFAM newsletter who have followed any of the articles I have published over the last several years know that I am a native of Missouri and grew up in O’Fallon, near St. Louis, in St. Charles County. When I was growing up there, it was a community of around eight hundred people and lots of dogs and cats. Everyone knew everyone, even down to the kids, dogs and cats.

The railroad was the real catalyst for the formation of the town. The North Missouri Railroad Company was incorporated in March of 1851 to build a railroad from St. Charles to the Iowa line. The North Missouri subsequently passed into the hands of the Wabash Railroad Company. In 1853, John O’Fallon was the president of the board of directors of the railroad. Anyone care to guess where the town got its name? Continue Reading →

History’s Corner – March 2016

SO, YOU THINK THEY DON’T REMEMBER WHO CAME TO HELP THEM IN THEIR HOUR OF NEED!

History-03-2016All of us who have been in this business for any length of time have had hundreds, if not thousands of opportunities to assist the folks that we protect from harm. Many of those opportunities turn out exactly like we want them to and everyone lives happily ever after. Sadly, we are in a business that also provides situations that, even though we do everything we can do, the results are tragic.

All of us also have responded to emergency situations that stick in our memory and haunt us because we continue to replay the circumstances and evaluate how we could have had a more positive outcome. It is imperative, for our own mental health, to move forward and look ahead to the next emergency response and pray that our training and experience will allow us another positive outcome. Continue Reading →

History’s Corner – January 2016

mu5We Have Come A Long Way, Baby!

Several weeks ago I received my copy of the Winter Fire School brochure in the mail from the University of Missouri Extension Fire and Rescue Training Institute. As most of the readers of this newsletter know, I have more than a passing interest in the Institutes’ activities, and training in general for the fire service. I spent several years of my life in a station wagon or a pickup truck and in some cases a semi-tractor crisscrossing this state as an instructor and later the director of the finest state training program in the nation; your MU Fire and Rescue Training Institute!

When I had a chance to review the program for the 35th Winter Fire School I was blown completely away by the content and professional way it was put together. I still keep close track of training programs across not only our country in various states, but our neighbors to the North as well. I defy anyone to show me a more comprehensive or more well organized offering of training any place by any State or Provincial training agency.

After receiving the program, I was motivated to dig around in my garage in the multitude of boxes of goodies I have saved to donate to the FFAM museum for a copy of the program for the very First Annual Winter Fire School, conducted on the UMC campus February 26, 27 and 28, of 1982. As usual, there is a story behind that program and the way it came about. So as Paul Harvey was famous for saying on the radio, now you will know “the rest of the story”. Continue Reading →