Columbia Firefighters Say Britt Will Leave Lasting Legacy

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COLUMBIA - Columbia firefighters said Thursday they will remember Lt. Bruce Britt as a man who was rough and rigid, yet kind-spirited.

The Jefferson City Fire Department and the Boone County Fire Protection District helped their neighbors in Columbia by answering calls Thursday morning, allowing Columbia firefighters to attend Lt. Bruce Britt's memorial service.

Mayor Bob McDavid and Fire Chief Chuck Witt remembered Britt with speeches at the service.

McDavid said he joined Britt for a day of fire operations training three years ago, and said he learned he [McDavid] could never be a firefighter. McDavid had to perform an extrication exercise and use the jaws of life to save a volunteer in a vehicle. McDavid said without Britt's help, he probably would not have been able to get the volunteer out of the vehicle.

Witt thanked the community for the support it has given to the department. Witt said it has been tough for firefighters to overcome sadness and frustration, but he said he was incredibly proud of how the department has handled Britt's death.

Moving forward, Witt said the department will be defined by how it moves on.

Britt joined the Columbia Fire Department in 1990, eventually working his way up to the rank of lieutenant in 2001. He served on the Hazmat and Tech Rescue teams and taught new firefighters as an adjunct instructor.

Britt earned a Phoenix Medal for making three clinical saves. A firefighter makes a clinical save when he or she resuscitates someone who is in cardiac arrest and the person makes it to the hospital.

Battalion Chief Brad Frazier said Britt was a joy to work with and is someone a department cannot replace.

"He was a very good man," Frazier said. "He was very respected leader, he was a fire-fighter's firefighter. He had a very profound impact on everyone who got the privilege of working with him and those in the community who got to interact with him."

Former firefighters also said they have positive memories of working with Britt.

Retired Columbia Battalion Chief Erman Call told KOMU 8 News Britt was dependable at the very beginning of his firefighting career.

"I was there for about two and a half years after Bruce came on, and he was a very serious, very dedicated young firefighter," Call said. "It's truly devastating what happened to him."

Former Columbia Fire Chief Bill Markgraf joked Britt had a weakness as a firefighter. Markgraf said Britt did not file conclusive reports.

"Bruce's idea of a fire report was to say we arrived at the scene, we found the fire, we put it out and we went back to quarters," Markgraf said.

Markgraf said Britt was straightforward and believed in simply getting the job done.