Firefighters return to the classroom for the weekend at MU

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COLUMBIA - One thousand firefighters from seven states attended classes on the MU campus Saturday as part of the MU Fire and Rescue Training Institute's annual Winter Fire School.

“We get the opportunity for classes here that you a lot of times can’t get in your department,” Lincoln County Fire Protection District Capt. Michael Noonan said. “Plus, you have different instructors who you get different perspectives from which you can learn about how other departments work and how their training goes.”

The event is the largest fire conference in the state of Missouri.

“It’s one of the unique opportunities that are not offered in many other states,” MU Fire and Rescue Training Institute Director Kevin Zumwalt said.

This weekend, the institute is offering more than 50 four, eight, and 12-hour classes for firefighters on a variety of topics.

“It’s everything from health and wellness to hands-on vehicle extrication type stuff that they need to learn, as well as hazards materials,” Zumwalt said. “We’ve got several classes that are in the officer development realm that lead towards a state certification.”

Noonan has been coming to the Winter Fire School since 2002. He said the new classes the school features each year have kept him coming back.

“I’m getting a little older in my career, and there are some new classes they came out with dealing with generational differences which is nice because it helps me work with a lot of the guys in my department,” Noonan said.

With firefighters from so many different departments attending, Zumwalt said the event often results in an exchange of ideas.

“You are bringing people in from across the states, so you are getting their experience of what they do back in their hometowns and their sharing that with the group,” he said.

Zumwalt said it is a unique opportunity for firefighters to learn from other departments. 

“Fire is fire,” he said. “You fight fire the same way, but when you talk about the different ways it is being handled at the volunteer level in the rural communities, versus the way it is done in the metro area, each is unique, and each can learn from each other.”

Zumwalt said he hopes firefighters will leave with new knowledge that will benefit their department.

“Whether that’s to save a life or a new technique they are going to be able to employ when they get back home to make their community safer,” he said.