By: Bill Haggard


The actual beginning of the Jefferson County Firefighters Association dates back to the late 1950s, when members of sixteen fire associations and fire department joined together and began meeting to discuss various issues related to the fire service in Jefferson County.  The earliest known minutes of the organization refers to an election of officers held in December of 1959, when Robert Eck of the De Soto Rural Volunteer Fire Association was elected as the President of the organization.  George Tetley of the Jefferson R-7 Fire Volunteer Association was elected as the Secretary-Treasurer.  The original members of the organization were: Antonia Community Fire Association, Cedar Hill Community Fire Association, Crystal City Fire Department, De Soto City Fire Department, De Soto Rural Fire Protection Association, Festus Fire Department, Goldman Volunteer Fire Association, Hematite Fire Association, Herculaneum Fire Department, High Ridge Volunteer Fire Association, Hillsboro Community Volunteer Fire Association, Horine Fire Department, Jefferson R-7 Fire Association, Mapaville Fire Association, Pevely Valley Fire Department and the Rock Community Volunteer Fire Association.  Two additional fire departments joined the membership in the early to mid-1960s – Shady Valley Volunteer Fire Association and Springdale Volunteer Fire Association.


In 1960, some of the issues that the organization dealt with included the development of the first county-wide equipment book, a county mutual aid plan, the use of red lights by firefighters, a state-wide blue light law and clarification of county maps and fire response areas.  Also, during the first year, a committee was organized to establish a county radio system for dispatch of fire calls and communications on the fire scene. An early meeting also resulted in the purchase of the yellow with black lettering tape that was used to identify each department’s equipment.  During the January 1960 meeting, the organization set up the 50/50 club and held the first drawing that evening.  Clarence Wagner of the Goldman Fire Association won the first 50/50.  The idea of the 50/50 club remains in 2011 with 50/50 tickets sold each meeting.


Also in 1960, the organization organized and sponsored the first Fire Prevention Caravan through Jefferson County on October 13th.  The first caravan traveled through 19 communities beginning in Goldman and ending in De Soto. The caravan covered 134 miles of Jefferson County roads and took over 10 hours to complete.  The theme for the first caravan was “Help Us Help You Through Fire Prevention”.  The organization sponsored two additional fire prevention caravans in 1961 and 1962.


In December of 1960, an election was held with the following officers elected:  President Joe Wingbermuehle of Rock Community, Vice-President John Storll of High Ridge and Secretary-Treasurer Roy Sippel of Rock Community.  During 1961, a new radio committee was organized to work toward the establishment of the county-wide radio system.  After two years of planning, and with the assistance of the Jefferson County Court and Civil Defense, the Jefferson County Radio System was activated in late summer of 1962.  The frequency assigned was 154.310 and the base station call sign was KBO 907.  In April of 1963, the Radio Committee assigned the unit radio numbers to each fire department.  This numbering system was continued until the present day 4 digit unit were assigned.  In addition to the radio system, the Jefferson County Firefighters Association was also involved in the establishment of the fire phone systems used by many fire departments in the 1960s and 1970s.


In early 1961, the association began the steps towards incorporating the association under the State of Missouri.  Attorney Joe Furtaw was instrumental in doing the legal work for the incorporation process.  On March 31, 1961, the association was officially incorporated under the name of Jeffco Firemen, Inc.  The three members of the Board of Directors named in the incorporation papers were: Lonnie Sellers of Hillsboro Fire Association, Robert Eck of De Soto Rural Fire Association and Ivan Gibson of De Soto Fire Department.


After three years of sponsoring the Fire Prevention Caravans in the county, the association decided to end the caravan in 1963.  The focus of the association was directed toward the hosting of the annual Fire Fighters Association of Missouri (F.F.A.M.) convention. The idea of hosting the convention was suggested in 1962, and in 1963 the Jeffco Firemen, Inc. was selected to the host the 10th annual convention – “The Sharpest 10 X 17”.  The convention was held in the Festus-Crystal City area with the theme of “Firemen Be Ready with Fire Training”.


An interesting activity of the association in the 1960s was the collection of clothing and household items for distribution to individuals who lost their personal belongings in fires.  For many years, the items were stored in a central location in Festus.


Throughout the 1960s, the association was active in working with the Civil Defense for equipment and training, especially in the area of radiological monitoring.  Another focus of the association involved the sponsorship of fire schools and classes and eventually the establishment of the Jefferson County Fire Training Coordinates, now known as the Jefferson County Fire Training Academy.


Association records for the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s are unavailable, but the association’s goals and activities remained the same during those years.  Fire training, fire prevention and mutual aid assistance among the county fire agencies have continued to this day.  In the early 1990s, the association was instrumental in the establishment of the Jefferson County 9-1-1 Dispatch Center in House Springs.


Since 1994, the association has sponsored the annual Jeffco Fire Engine Rally held in Herculaneum.  The annual rally promotes fire safety and fire prevention for the general public and provides a chance for camaraderie between the county fire agencies.  Each year, the rally includes a memorial service for individuals of the Jefferson County fire service who have passed away and also the presentation of the annual Jefferson County awards.


In 1996, the Jefferson County Firefighters Association sponsored the 42nd Annual Fire Fighters Association of Missouri (F.F.A.M.) Convention in Festus.  The theme of the convention was “Career and Volunteer, Just the Right Mix”.  In the early 2000s, the association sponsored a section of a memorial wall at the Missouri Firefighters Memorial in Kingdom City.  The section contains the names of several Jefferson County firefighters who have passed away and had served a minimum of ten years in the fire service.  Future plans for the association includes the establishment of a Jefferson County Firefighters Memorial in the county.


In the late 1990s, the five ambulance districts in Jefferson County became members of the Jefferson County Firefighters Association.


Today, the association sponsors the Jefferson County Fire Investigation Team, the Fire Chaplains of Jefferson County, the Jefferson County Hazardous Materials Team and the Jefferson County Color/Honor Guard.


In 2011, the Jefferson County Firefighters Association includes 600-plus members from the following agencies:  Antonia Fire Protection District, Big River Ambulance District, Cedar Hill Fire Protection District, Crystal City Fire Department, De Soto Fire Department, De Soto Rural Fire Protection District, Dunklin Fire Protection District, Festus Fire Department, Goldman Fire Protection District, Hematite Fire Protection District, Herculaneum Fire Department, High Ridge Fire Protection District, Hillsboro Fire Protection District, Jefferson R-7 Fire Protection District, Joachim-Plattin Ambulance District, Mapaville Fire Protection District, North Jefferson Ambulance District, Rock Community Fire Protection District, Rock Township Ambulance District, Saline Valley Fire Protection District and the Valle Ambulance District.


There have been many individuals, too numerous to name here, who have served the association as officers and committee members.  The fire service of Jefferson County owes a great deal of gratitude to the men who organized the association and to those who have worked to keep the organization functioning in 2018 and beyond.