DUNKLIN FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT
By: Bill Haggard
The Dunklin Fire Protection District was formed as a result of two neighboring fire departments consolidating and forming on e tax supported fire protection district.
The Horine Fire Department was formed in 1959 by a local businessman named Casey J. Plass, who became the first Fire Chief. The new fire department equipment consisted of a 1950 one-ton truck with a 200 gallon booster tank and a portable pump and the truck was housed at the Plass Blacksmith Shop in Horine. In 1960, a 1946 Chevrolet pumper with 1,000 feet of hose, a 500 GPM mid-ship pump and a 200 gallon booster tank was purchased from the Pacific Fire Department. Mr. Plass would remain as Fire Chief until his death in 1969. Following his death, the firemen could not shoulder the responsibility of operating the fire department, so they sought help from the neighboring fire departments in a reorganization effort. Fire Chief Ray Sheets of the Pevely Valley Fire Department, Fire Chief Tom Robart of the Herculaneum Fire Department and Fire Chief Herb Besand of the Festus Fire Department assisted the Horine firefighters in the reorganization of the fire department. In 1970, the Horine Fire Department created a Board of Trustees with five members. The new board appointed Charles Wm. Winford as Fire Chief. Clifford Govero and William Wegmann were appointed as Assistant Chiefs. In 1971, a 1959 Ford truck was converted into a 1,000 gallon tanker. The fire department also acquired a 1963 weapons carrier from the Missouri Department of Conservation that was converted into a 100 gallon brush truck.
The Pevely Valley Fire Department was formed in 1950 and was governed by an administration board of seven members. The first Fire Chief was Henry Scherten followed by Shorty Wilson, Floyd Lee and Ray Sheets (1961-1974). In September of 1950, a 1936 Dodge with a 250 gallon booster tank was purchased from the Cape Girardeau Fire Department for $2,500.00. Money for the purchase of the truck was collected by holding dances and turkey shoots. In 1955, a 1941 Ford fire truck was purchased from the Mehlville Fire Protection District. Also in 1955, a 1951 Ford fire truck with an 800 gallon booster tank and a two-stage mid-ship pump was purchased from the Mitchell Fire Department in Illinois.
In April of 1974, the Horine Volunteer Fire Department and the Pevely Valley Fire Department joined forces to become a tax supported fire protection district and adopted the name Dunklin Fire Protection District. The name Dunklin was chosen in honor of Daniel Dunklin, the 5th Governor of Missouri.
The newly formed Dunklin Fire Protection District was governed by a three member elected Board of Directors – President Charles Wm. Winford, Vice President Tillman Ratty and Treasurer John Baynes, Sr. The Board of Directors appointed Ray Sheets as the Fire Chief and Charles Wm. Winford as the Assistant Fire Chief. David Besand was appointed Fire Chief from May of 1975 to June of 1976 while Chief Sheets was on a leave of absence. Chief Sheets returned in 1976 and retired the following year. Gene Rolfe was appointed Fire Chief from 1977 to July of 1978 at which time Gary McClain was appointed Fire Chief. Chief McClain continues to serve the fire district as Fire Chief in 2011.
The fire station located in Horine was closed and the fire district operated from one fire station in Pevely. In 1986, land was purchase on Highway Z for the construction of a new fire station. In July of 1987, the fire district began operations from the new station with a paid Fire Chief and two paid firefighters who worked Monday through Friday. The Pevely fire station was closed and sold. In February of 1992, a third paid firefighter was hired and 24-hour shifts began.
On April 6, 2006, after several unsuccessful attempts, the residents approved a 25 cent tax increase and a 5 cent tax for a pension plan. In October of 2006, three additional firefighters were hired and in February of 2008, another three firefighters were hired. As of 2011, the Dunklin Fire Protection District has 10 full-time employees including the Fire Chief, Deputy Chief and Fire Marshal.