Boone County Fire Protection District

Boone County Fire Protection District

name = Boone County Fire Protection District

motto = 'A Helping Hand'
established = 1964
staffing = Volunteer
strength = 400
stations = 14
engines = 14
tankers = 8
grass trucks = 9
rescue squads = 2
rescue boats = 3
reserve apparatus = 8
chief = Steve Paulsell

The Boone County Fire Protection District (BCFPD) is the agency that provides fire protection and emergency medical services for Boone County, Missouri. BCFPD is the largest volunteer fire department in the state, and the third largest fire service organization overall, protecting 532 square miles (1,378 km²) of residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural property and over 50,000 people. This is the largest fire protection service area in the state.

The Fire District operates with a volunteer staff of approximately 400 personnel who annually give over 117,000 hours of volunteer service to the organization. The volunteer staff is supported by a career staff of 16 people that provides training, maintenance, public safety education and administrative services.

Boone County FPD is an all hazards response agency emergency for the community. With an annual operating budget of $3.9 million, the Fire District is designated as the statewide hazardous materials team and serves as the base for the central Missouri fire incident management team for large-scale emergency events. (There are three incident management teams, one each based in St. Louis County and Jackson County and the third in Boone County.)

Urban Search and Rescue Missouri Task Force 1, one of only 28 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Teams, is a division of the fire district.

Boone County FPD is also the only fire department in the state that operates a Wildland Fire Team which responds to large wildland fires throughout the country each year under a cooperative agreement with the Missouri Department of Conservation, dispatched through the MOCC coordination center in Rolla, Mo.


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.

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 ½ mile east of what is presently Highway 63. Additional equipment was acquired through military surplus and additional donations.

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 1970s, 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. Paulsell continues to serve as fire chief to this day.

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.

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 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.

Fire call statistics For 2005

The Fire District responded to 3,885 requests for emergency services in 2005 (67% Medical Calls, 10% Fire Calls, 3% Hazardous Condition, 5% Service Calls, 5% Good Intent Calls, 6% False Calls, 2% other).

Fire apparatus

The Boone County Fire Protection District operates in excess of 110 emergency vehicles. The Boone County Fire Protection District ranks third in Missouri in fleet size behind St. Louis and Kansas City. As in all fire departments, various pieces of fire apparatus, as they are called, are used for different types of incidents and are designed specifically to meet the needs of the local jurisdiction. The Boone County Fire Protection District operates a basic complement of equipment in its fire stations designed to address the routine emergencies in the various locations throughout the county. Additionally, there are specialty units that may be called upon to respond to very specific or technical incidents requiring specialized apparatus.

Engine companies

Each Boone County Fire District fire station is equipped with an engine company, which complies with National Fire Protection Association standards for structural firefighting apparatus. These units are equipped with a multitude of fire and rescue appliances. All engine companies are equipped with fire pumps that are rated at 1,000 GPM or above and carry 750 gallons of water. Additionally, a full complement of fire hoses, nozzles, and adapters are carried to ensure maximum flexibility for various types of fire suppression challenges that may be faced in the field. All engine companies, as all pieces of emergency apparatus, carry a full compleiment of emergency medical equipment, four gas meters, and thermal imaging cameras as well.

Tanker companies

Operating primarily in a rural environment, the entire Fire District is not protected with adequate numbers and locations of fire hydrants therefore; the Fire District has been forced to develop a mobile water supply strategy that enables the organization to transport large volumes of water to the scene of a fire. A fleet of tankers, or tenders as they are sometimes called, is located throughout the Fire District and is used to supplement and supply the engine companies at the scene of structural fires. These units carry 1,500 gallons of water. A quick dump supply system has been developed that enables Fire District personnel to respond to the scene of a fire with these tankers and dump 1,500 gallons of water in less than 45 seconds into an onsite storage tank carried on the apparatus. This water can then be used by the engine company to combat the fire while the tanker is enroute back to a supply point such as a fire hydrant or static water source to fill and return with another load.

Heavy rescue squads

The Boone County Fire Protection District operates two heavy rescue squads. One is located at Station 1 in the Columbia area near Lake of the Woods and the other is located at Station 6 in Sturgeon. These units carry a full complement of heavy rescue equipment and meet the NFPA requirements for heavy rescue squads. They are equipped to provide automobile extrication, high angle rescue, trench rescue, ice rescue, swift water rescue, cave rescue, and confined space rescue.

Quick response vehicles

Each Fire District Station is equipped with a quick response vehicle (QRV). They are designed for mobility, speed and rapid intervention with minimal personnel. They are 4-wheel drive and have limited fire suppression capability onboard. They are designed and operated with two primary missions in mind. The first is for Wildland Fire response. The Fire District, over the years, has experimented with four generations of vehicles to meet this need. After exhaustive testing and experience, we believe the approach presently in use to be the most versatile and effective. These units carry 300 gallons of water and have an independent pumping system with foam capability onboard. Foam allows us better penetration with water and better viscosity in a wildland environment. Additionally, these units are designed as the primary delivery vehicles for the emergency medical services within the Fire District. Approximately 60% of all emergency responses are emergency medical in nature and these units are more maneuverable and less expensive to operate than the larger units. Most fire departments use engine companies for the delivery of basic life support EMS services. The Boone County Fire District has chosen to employ more maneuverable units, which involve less expense to operate and maintain. This also allows the District to extend the life of the more expensive units. These units are also equipped with limited structural firefighting capabilities so that in the event that a fire crew is returning from a wildland fire or a medical emergency when a structural fire assignment is dispatched, they are in a position to provide first aid firefighting capability until arrival of the larger units. The Fire District has attempted to create a system that is very versatile, very adaptable and very responsive to a multitude of incidents.

Rescue boats

The Fire District operates four boats of various sizes and configurations for rescue and recovery operations on the Missouri River and in small streams and static bodies of water throughout Boone County.

Fire stations

The Boone County Fire District maintains 14 fire stations, a training center, and a central district office. The fire stations are located throughout the Fire District and are located within more densely populated areas for two primary reasons. First, the majority calls are generated where people live. By being located in these population centers, we can better serve the larger majority of people. Secondarily, it is from these population centers that we draw additional volunteer firefighters to staff the organization. As Boone County grows and as the voters continue to support our funding proposals, we will continue to expand with additional station locations throughout Boone County in our continued efforts to improve response times. All Fire District stations are constructed in a modular fashion so as to facilitate additions in future years and minimizing expenses. The fire stations are constructed to accommodate the fire apparatus with ample space for the volunteer firefighters to work in and around the equipment in a safe and efficient manner. All Boone County Fire District stations are also equipped with living quarters where volunteer firefighters actually reside. Many volunteer firefighters are students or otherwise single men and women who, in exchange for their services as fire apparatus operators, live in our fire stations at no charge. This facilitates a rapid response of equipment without the expense of paying full time people to staff the facilities. All fire stations are equipped with kitchen facilities and many are equipped with training rooms and other support facilities. Those that are presently not equipped with individual training facilities have been constructed, as previously mentioned, in a modular fashion so that the training facilities can be added at a later date as funding becomes available.

The Fire District Headquarters (valued at $3 million) was purchased for $1.8 million. Rental income offsets 75% of the building's operating expenses.


The Fire District is known nationally for its many innovations. Among these are its volunteer firefighter recruitment, retention and residency program; contextually formatted training; and public safety education, having received the 1996 International Association of Fire Chiefs Championship Award for Excellence for its Survival Kids Program and its unique use of the Incident Management System.

Fire District Command Staff are actively involved in far reaching national and international emergency service programs, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Fire Academy, National Association for Search & Rescue and the International Fire Service Training Association. Several serve on FEMA disaster management teams. Over the years, 14 Fire District members have become Fire Chiefs in other communities.

FEMA US&R team

The Fire District is designated by FEMA as one of only 28 Federal Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces in the nation. The designation is the result of some 100,000 volunteer hours given by 210 personnel from within and outside the Fire District. As a federal resource, Missouri Task Force 1 is on call for federal disaster response and, upon activation, must be on military aircraft within six hours with 70 personnel, four search canines and 100,000 lb. of equipment. Missouri Task Force 1 was deployed to the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001 and most recently to Hurricane Katrina on August 27, 2005.

External links

* [ Boone County Fire Protection District]

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