Over a thousand emergency responders train in Columbia this weekend

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Jim Brockett, a firefighter with the Southern Stone County Fire Protection District, traveled over 200 miles from Branson to train in Columbia this weekend.

“The Winter Fire School — every year they have it and I take classes,” Brockett said. “It gives you knowledge and training of what to do.”

The annual Winter Fire School and Equipment Exposition hosted by MU’s Fire and Rescue Training Institute started Feb. 7 and continues through Feb. 9. It offers training classes ranging from basic strategy to advanced leadership. Over 1,000 people from across 21 states attended this year, and hundreds more are participating via webcast. 

This is the 12th year Brockett has attended. In years passed, he took a driving emergency vehicles course. Brockett said it was the most valuable information he learned. 

“I’ve used the information many times on scenes and driving,” Brockett said. “Especially drive slow cause the piece of equipment you’re driving does not know it’s going to an emergency.” 

Conference Coordinator, Tracy Gray, said the Winter Fire School started 39 years ago with only three classes and 25 students. This year, more than 100 classes are being offered over the course of the weekend. He said the reason people from across the U.S. know about the training is because of the national speakers. 

“We have them all the way from California to Seattle to Jersey to Texas to Montana,” Gray said. “All those instructors— we bring them in so it gives the opportunity for students to come in and see what new ideas they can take home to their jurisdiction.” 

Jefferson City Fire Department driver, Matt Luebbert, said he’s attended the school for 11 years to learn and network. 

“It provides a lot of good, not only education, but networking all around the state and it’s always good to talk about your craft,” Luebbert said. 

Luebbert also said that because the job is so dangerous, staying on top of new information and technology is important. 

“We’ve had people that have sat on a class on Saturday,” Gray said. “On their way back home to their jurisdiction came across an emergency and the things that they learned from their Saturday, they implemented on Sunday.” 

Classes will continue through Sunday afternoon. The 88th annual Summer Fire School is set for May 27-31.