History of the Fire and Rescue Training Institute
Though fire service training has always been a part of every organized fire department, the early years in Missouri saw few training opportunities outside one’s own department. In 1933, mid-Missouri fire departments joined with the University of Missouri to address the need for more advanced training. Through their efforts the first Missouri Central Fire School was conducted that year. The purpose of the first school was to provide “training that was needed for firefighters to perform their duties safely and efficiently.” Some of the training topics of that first school included “Using Gas Masks in Smoke” and “First Aid & Resuscitation.” Even in the 1930s, fire training addressed health and safety issues for firefighters, as well as providing medical services for citizens. The Missouri Central Fire School was a great success and became an annual event. The name of the school changed to the Summer Fire College, and then to the name it bears today Summer Fire School. From these modest beginnings the University of Missouri took a lead role in the training of Missouri’s fire and emergency service responders. This training mission has continued for over three quarters of a century.
Statewide fire training in Missouri remained fairly rudimentary throughout the 1930s and early 1940s. Summer Fire College, supported by the University, remained the single main initiative. In 1941, the State Department of Vocational Education instituted one Fire Instructor position to conduct training in the state. The instructor that was appointed to fill the position was W. Bush Walden. The Missouri Inspection and Rating Bureau, an insurance industry group, took over responsibility for fire training in 1944 and Instructor Walden transferred with the program. The University continued to play a role during this transition as both state entities partnered with the University to continue to offer the annual Summer Fire School. Three years later, state fire training found a permanent fulltime home with the University of Missouri when the Rating Bureau turned over all programming to the University. A fulltime fire service training program was created within the University of Missouri as part of the Division of Adult Education and Extension Services. The new program was named the “Firemanship Training” program. Instructor Walden continued his position as the fire service instructor with the new program. Walden retired from the program in 1973 with the title of Coordinator of Fire Training. Over the years the program continued to expand and offer new courses. In 1976, the name changed to the Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Program to better reflect its expanded training mission.
Through the dedicated work of key leaders in the state’s fire service along with the support of Missouri’s fire service, the University of Missouri provided additional resources to expand the program. With the expansion, the University granted full Institute accreditation to the program on July 1, 1982, and formally changed the name to the Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute (University Archives, University of Missouri-Columbia, Record Group: 16 C Sub - Group: 11). In compliance with changes on the University of Missouri Columbia campus, the Institute’s name was officially changed in 1991 to the MU Fire & Rescue Training Institute, the name it retains today.
Throughout its existence the Fire Training Program/Institute has been a unit within a number of different academic colleges or divisions of the University, as well as occupied a variety of home locations on the University’s Columbia campus. During the 70s and 80s, Fire and Rescue Training was a part of the College of Public & Community Services. Though the program was tied programmatically with the Division of Extension starting in 1982, it did not fully transfer into Extension until 1988, when the College of Public & Community Services was disbanded. Fire and Rescue Training occupied its most prominent location on campus in the 1960s when the University built a combination office and classroom building that was designed like a fire station with actual apparatus bays to house the program’s fire trucks and equipment. The building was located on Ashland/Gravel Road south of the main campus and associated with part of the agricultural farm. In 1966, the growing need for another City of Columbia fire station to better protect the growing campus of the University compelled the University’s Board of Curators to enter into an agreement with the Columbia City Council to lease part of the Institute’s space to the city to house an engine company. Initially, Fire and Rescue Training shared space with the engine company. However, the need for apparatus and crew space continued to increase which displaced the Institute. The original building went through a number of remodels and is now Columbia Fire Department’s Station #3. In 1998 the MU Fire and Rescue Training Institute relocated to the Heinkel Building and in 2013 moved to its current location at 1110 South College Avenue, Room 232 on the Southeast end of the MU campus in Columbia.
Since the inception of the “Firemenship Training” program in 1947, the program has utilized traditional fire service insignia in an emblem designed to identify and symbolize the program. The first emblem was circular with University of Missouri – Fire Training around the edge and traditional fire service symbols incorporated in the center. With the granting of Institute status by the University in 1982, the Institute incorporated a new emblem utilizing the traditional, internationally-recognized fire service Maltese Cross with the wording Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute. By a 1991 directive from the Chancellor’s Office, the “MU” logo was placed in the center of Institute’s Maltese Cross emblem which established the official Institute title of the MU Fire and Rescue Training Institute (MU FRTI). In 2001, MU FRTI’s emblem was engraved in granite, along with the other major fire service organization and agencies, as part of the Missouri State Fire Fighters Memorial in Kingdom City, MO. MU FRTI’s emblem stands in tribute to Missouri’s firefighters who have fallen in the Line of Duty, as well as those who continue to serve.
In addition to coordinating and delivering the Institute’s training programs, MU FRTI works in concert with the National Fire Academy (NFA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) to provide NFA programming at the state level. As the local face of the National Fire Academy, MU FRTI maintains the same quality of instruction and high standards established by the National Fire Academy. As the state Enfranchised Program for the NFA, the Institute teaches NFA hand-off courses, as well as teaching curriculum developed by MU FRTI that carries NFA credit endorsements.
In late 2000, MU FRTI expanded its mission beyond traditional firefighting education and added programming in the areas of counter-terrorism and emergency management. These programs have expanded beyond their original scope and today, provide specialized response and emergency management training to local responders, military personnel, state and local governments, and private entities. In January 2004, emergency management training was further expanded by the addition of the Exercise and Evaluation Program. This program assists local and state governments, volunteer organizations, and businesses develop operational exercises to test their emergency plans and procedures.
In 2001 MU FRTI proudly partnered with Columbia College to create an Associate in Science (AS) in Fire Service Administration (FSAD) degree program. This program provides firefighters the opportunity to directly transcript and transfer applicable Institute courses for college credit towards this degree. As part of this partnership, MU FRTI maintains American Council on Education (ACE) college credit recommendations for selected fire service courses.
The ACE College Credit Recommendation Service (CREDIT) connects workplace learning with colleges and universities by helping adults gain access to academic credit for formal courses and examinations taken outside traditional degree programs. MU FRTI has meticulously groomed courses specific to this degree to meet the high standards of the ACE organization. MU FRTI has participated in the ACE review process since 2001 and continues to support the process so that the Institute’s students have the value added ability to transfer course work for college level credit.
MU FRTI works closely with the Missouri Division of Fire Safety (DFS) and the Missouri Fire Education and Advisory Commission to ensure that MU FRTI courses, where applicable, address state fire service certification requirements. The Institute also works with other state and federal entities regarding approvals and acceptance of training courses delivered by the program.
MU FRTI is listed as the sixth oldest state level fire training program in the United States. The Institute’s mission continues to be focused on providing effective, standards-based, quality training and education for our state and nation’s emergency responders. Examples of the comprehensive areas of emergency response training include: structural, wildland, and aircraft firefighting; emergency medical care; technical rescue; environmental emergency mitigation; fire service instructor and company officer development; counter-terrorism; emergency management; and emergency planning and exercise evaluation.
Following the Land Grant University model for Extension outreach, MU FRTI is the state’s “classroom” and technical skills training program for Missouri’s fire and emergency service responders by delivering programming across the state to local communities, as well as through annual and regional fire schools. MU FRTI maintains a fleet of trailers that transport training props and/or support equipment and annually travels over a quarter of a million miles each year providing training to all 114 Missouri counties and surrounding states. Enabled by this training, Missouri’s emergency responders have made a significant impact on the protection of lives and property from fire and other disasters. In 2010, MU FRTI ranked tenth in the nation in number of fire and emergency responders trained per year. Annually the Institute delivers training to over 15,000 students and generates over 250,000 student instructional hours. Every hour of instruction received and every emergency first responder trained translates directly into safer firefighters and safer communities.
MU FRTI’s mission is:
to plan, develop, deliver, and administer state-of-the-art continuing professional education courses which meet the comprehensive training needs of fire & rescue personnel and other emergency managers & responders utilizing the most efficient and effective means possible, thereby enabling them to better protect lives and property within their communities.
The following are examples of the different emblems that have identified the University of Missouri’s Fire and Rescue Training program throughout its history as the pre-eminent educational institution for fire and emergency service training in Missouri.
The History of MU FRTI was compiled in 2012
By Director David E. Hedrick