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History
Prior to 1964, there was no organized fire protection in Boone County beyond the corporate city limits of the City of Columbia. In 1963, an elderly handicapped woman died in a house fire immediately west of the city limits of Columbia. A small band of CB Radio enthusiasts, which called themselves the Central Missouri Radio Squad, came together and determined that someone must take the initiative to develop a rural fire protection system for Boone County.
We have come a long way with the type of emergency apparatus we use.
In 1964, in an abandoned chicken house on Route PP northeast of Columbia, the Central Missouri Radio Squad Volunteer Fire Department was formed. The first fire apparatus was an old milk delivery truck donated by Mr. J. Patrick Barnes. Pat Barnes continues to volunteer today as the District’s First Assistant Fire Chief. The first fire chief was John Dineen, a safety specialist for Columbia Mutual Insurance Companies. Donations were solicited, volunteers purchased gasoline out of their own pockets and some items were literally stolen during the early phases of development. Initial protection was provided through a membership or “fire tag” system that allowed Boone County residents to purchase fire protection for five dollars per year. In late 1964, sufficient funds were raised to start the construction of what was to become the first “real” fire station in the organization. This station was established on Route PP, approximately mile east of what is presently Highway 63. Additional equipment was acquired through military surplus and additional donations. The organization began to grow.

In 1968, Bill Westhoff assumed the position of fire chief. Westhoff was employed by the University of Missouri Fire Training Department. It was this early relationship that instilled the organizational commitment to a quality training program that continues today.

In 1970, state laws were adjusted to make the formation of fire protection districts in out-state Missouri easier. The volunteer firefighters of the Central Missouri Radio Squad campaigned actively throughout Boone County in an effort to form what was to become the first out-state fire protection district (outside the St. Louis/Kansas City area). With a voter approval rate of 375 ayes and 229 nays, the Boone County Fire Protection District was formed on July 11, 1970.

The first Board of Directors moved quickly to establish additional fire station locations in Rocheport, Hallsville and Harrisburg. The facilities were meager, to say the least, and the equipment was very marginal, however, these locations ultimately developed into strong fire protection units and, in addition to the original station on Route PP in Columbia, became the hub of what was to ultimately become the third largest network of fire stations and fire apparatus in Missouri.

Throughout the early years, training was intensified and additional volunteer firefighters came to assist. Additional fire stations were created in the mid 70’s in the Prathersville area at what was then Cottonwoods Airport (now the Boone County Fair Grounds) and in Sturgeon through a cooperative arrangement with the Sturgeon Fire Department.

As Boone County grew, so did the Fire Protection District. Additional equipment was purchased, protective clothing was upgraded and the communications system was enhanced. In the late 1970's, additional fire station locations were established in the Rockbridge and Midway areas.

Steve Paulsell was appointed as the organization’s first full-time fire chief in 1977. Paulsell joined the organization as a volunteer in 1970 and became the District’s first employee in 1972. He retired in 2008. Scott Olsen currently services as Interim Fire Chief.

In 1977, the Boone County Fire District initiated its Emergency Medical Services First Responder Program. This was one of the first programs of its kind in the country and a program that now comprises approximately 60% of all emergency responses within the Fire District. Also in 1977, the Columbia/Boone County Joint Communications Center went online, which combined the dispatching functions of all the emergency services in Boone County and which continues to operate to this day. This system provides a more economically efficient system and, simultaneously, provides better coordination of all emergency services in Boone County.


Not much changes in the fire service, whether now or 50 years ago, firefighters still need to know the methods of applying water to a fire.

In 1978, the Boone County Fire Protection District was instrumental in working with Boone County government to adopt and implement building and fire safety codes in Boone County. Prior to this time, there were no building standards in effect outside the city limits of Columbia and the results of inferior construction were noticeably evident. Today, the benefits of the code enforcement program are, likewise, as evident.

In April of 1981, the Boone County Fire Protection District put before the voters its first capital improvements bond issue. This $1.5 million issue was overwhelmingly approved by the voters of the Fire Protection District and provided for the construction of a new fire station in the Prathersville area and in the Rockbridge area south of Columbia. Eleven additional pieces of fire apparatus were purchased and protective equipment for Boone County’s firefighters was enhanced.

The 1980’s saw additional development of core programs, particularly, in the areas of public education, training and maintenance of facilities and equipment.

In 1991, another capital improvements bond issue was proposed to the voters and, like the one in 1981, was overwhelmingly approved. Additionally, during this same election, an increase in the general revenue fund was authorized by the voters, which allowed the organization to hire additional support personnel and enhance many of the support programs. As a result of the capital improvements project, an additional twelve pieces of fire equipment were purchased, new stations were established on Route E northwest of Columbia, on Route WW east of Columbia and new stations were constructed in Sturgeon and Centralia. Additions were made to fire stations in Harrisburg and Rocheport.

The 1990’s saw the organization continue to expand with a number of specialty teams developed. In 1995, the Fire District set out to receive a federal designation as a Federal Urban Search and Rescue Task Force. In the late 1990’s, this was accomplished, significantly expanding the rescue capabilities of the organization locally, statewide and nationally. The Fire District, under the banner of Missouri Task Force 1, is now one of only 28 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue task forces in the United States and is available for deployment to disasters throughout the country upon a Presidential disaster declaration.

In 1996, following a significant enhancement to the Fire District’s public fire and life safety education program, the Fire District was recognized by the International Association of Fire Chiefs for its development and implementation of the District’s Survival Kids program. This life safety program, taught in all fourth grade classrooms in the Fire District by Boone County volunteer firefighters, was awarded the IAFC’s Excellence Award in international competition. This program has been shared with many other fire departments and, in addition to being taught in countless departments in our country, is also being taught in the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, Japan and South Africa.

In 1998, the voters of the Fire District again overwhelmingly authorized a capital improvements project, which purchased 16 pieces of fire apparatus and established new stations locations southwest of Columbia, in the Dripping Springs area north of Columbia and the Deer Park area south of Columbia. Facilities were replaced in Midway, Harrisburg and Hallsville with additions to existing facilities being constructed at Route WW, Rocheport, Prathersville, and Rockbridge.

Today’s Boone County Fire Protection District is the largest volunteer fire department in the State of Missouri. It encompasses approximately 500 square miles, operates 14 fire station locations with some 50 pieces of fire apparatus. Two hundred volunteer men and women give of their time and talents to protect their community and have become recognized nationally as a premier organization.

 

2014 Boone County Fire Protection District, Columbia, Missouri