Four Rivers Firefighters Association (FRFA) members on Sept. 22 at their regular meeting at Vienna Fire Department Station 1 recognized firefighter Clem Samson, who has retired as the association …
Four Rivers Firefighters Association (FRFA) members on Sept. 22 at their regular meeting at Vienna Fire Department Station 1 recognized firefighter Clem Samson, who has retired as the association secretary/treasurer, a position he’s held since 2003.
Samson has been a member of the Freeburg Fire Department since 1983 and during his tenure, he has served the FRFA as president and vice president.
Current president Ron Hoffman of the Linn Fire Protection District noted a meeting of local firefighters was held on Sept. 13, 1957, at the Osage County Courthouse.
Fire department officials from Maries and Osage counties attended. Linn Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Zeilmann called the meeting to order and appointed Charles F. Kramen as temporary secretary. Elmer J. Schunidt of the Franklin-Gasconade County Firefighter’s Association was appointed temporary chairman for the purpose of conducting the meeting. Schunidt presented a talk on the advantages of a two-county firefighters association, which Herman Luecke of the New Haven FD and Buster Baumauer of the Washington FD further outlined.
On Oct. 8, 1957, the Westphalia VFD hosted a meeting to set up by-laws and establish an organization. Westphalia Fire Chief Steve Bexten called the meeting to order and appointed Linn Chief Zeilmann as temporary secretary.
Four firefighters from Argyle, three from LVFD, two from Meta VFD, three from Vienna VFD, seven from Westphalia VFD, and three from New Haven and Washington fire departments were in attendance.
Schunidt conducted a question-and-answer period about a new association, and after discussion, a firefighter’s organization was established under the name of Osage-Maries Firefighters Association. Officers elected were President Steve Zeilmann of Linn, Vice President Paul Sestak of Westphalia, and Secretary/Treasurer Henry Hill of Meta.
Charter members were Argyle, Belle, Chamois, Freeburg, Linn, Meta, Vienna, and Westphalia. In 1963, Taos joined the association. By 1971, Belle had dropped out and St. Thomas had joined, followed by St. Elizabeth in 1977.
Sept. 22 marked the 64th anniversary of the FRFA with 11 member departments: Argyle VFD, Belle FPD, Bland VFD, Chamois FPD, Dixon FD, Freeburg VFD, Linn FPD, Meta FRFPD, Owensville FD, Vienna FD, and the Westphalia FPD.
There has been much history since that day in 1957. Over time with the joining of departments from Miller and Cole counties, the name was changed to the Osage Maries Miller Cole Firefighters Association.
In 2018, the Owensville FD joined the association from Gasconade County and so a proposal was made to change the name to one that encompasses all area members. The name Four Rivers Firefighters Association was chosen because of the Missouri, Osage, Gasconade, or Maries rivers.
Hoffman noted that an association is beneficial because of mutual aid. Departments train and prepare for emergencies within their boundaries. With small budgets, some less than $30,000 per year, members of the FRFA are volunteers. Starting 65 years ago, some fire departments today within the FRFA are still membership-based. Customers within the local fire department’s boundaries pay a membership to join the rural fire association. Those dues go toward paying for equipment, supplies, and training as needed.
“Like all the departments, the fellowship and family environment created is a rural American tradition,” Hoffman said.
Some of the departments may elect to build a piece of equipment since they are not able to afford a new or even used apparatus.
“In many areas of Missouri, it may be enforced that if you are not a member of the local fire association (a private department), you may not be eligible for the fire department to come put out a non-member fire,” said Hoffman.
Over time, some departments have moved from membership-based revenues to a tax-supported fire district. Hoffman said the taxes collected may generate a little more than a membership base would, but this is looked upon as everyone pays for the fire protection rather than a small percentage. In many cases for an average home, taxes are less than the cost of membership.
Insurance Service Office (ISO) is an organization that rates fire departments around the country and this information is used by insurance companies to establish your insurance rates. “The lower your ISO rating is the better,” said Hoffman. “Understanding all this information will help you understand why a firefighter’s association is so important. When a department has an emergency call, through automatic mutual aid, they can call upon any member department to respond with engines, apparatus, equipment, and manpower to assist.
Hoffman said it is well-known that even the largest department within the FRFA cannot survive without the other members of the association. “A good way to look at it is that your local fire department does not have just two engines and two tankers,” he added. “Your local fire department may have access to 22 engines, 11 tankers, five ladders, 11 rescue units, 11 brush units, seven medical units, one hazmat unit, and eight ATV units.”
The FRFA meets and conducts structure fire or component training together every other month, which helps with the ISO rating.
“It demonstrates that we are working together, sharing in knowledge and resources,” said Hoffman. “Chiefs meet opposite of the association meetings to discuss issues and topics that affect the association.”
The FRFA Training Division conducts Firefighter Basic Recruit Training for all new firefighters. Instead of each department having training for one or two new firefighters, the training division can host a class of 7-14 new firefighters. Each department’s training officer is an instructor with the FRFA Training Academy.
Training consists of basic firefighter, fire science and fire behavior, wildland firefighting, vehicle extrication, hazardous materials management, incident command, search and rescue, and water rescue.
“There are many detailed areas of each training topic that bring the firefighters to technical training and state certification levels,” said Hoffman.
ISO looks at all this information the same way. With the mutual aid agreements in place, any fire department has more apparatus, equipment, and manpower available than what is in its own fire station.