"By doing this as a group we showed how mutual aid works in Barry County," said Wheaton Fire Chief Bob Lombard. "Over 10 fire departments participated in 18 drills during the training session.
"This was very good training that showed just what kind of support Barry County fire departments offer each other," said Lombard. "In this area we have county-wide mutual aid, and this showed that departments can depend on receiving help from their neighboring departments."
As the host fire department, Wheaton had four firefighting vehicles and 10 volunteer firefighters on-site throughout the training and controlled burn.
Other fire departments that participated in the event included: the Monett City Fire Department; the Exeter Fire Protection District; the Monett Rural Fire Department; the Aurora City Fire Department; the Eagle Rock-Golden-Mano Fire Protection District; the Purdy Fire Protection District; the Butterfield Fire Protection District; the Washburn Fire Department; the Fairview Fire Department; and the Seligman Fire Protection District.
The training was coordinated by Shane Anderson, of the Monett City Fire Department. Anderson recently conducted Firefighter I and II training in Exeter. The training was attended by 18 local firefighters.
"By training together, these firefighters will know how each department operates, which will allow them to work together more efficiently," said Anderson. "As a firefighter, I am only impressed by those who have been in the ditches with me.
"When these firefighters see other volunteers in training, they have an opportunity to react to each other," said Anderson. "This allows them to build confidence and trust in each other and helps them do their job more efficiently."
During the training exercise, volunteer firefighters were required to use their self-contained breathing apparatus and work with a partner to extinguish an indoor blaze located on the second floor of the old hotel structure.
Fire departments participating in the training also successfully set up and operated a multi-jurisdictional incident and command center and fixed and mobile water supplies.
"They had to work together to provide the water supply," said Anderson. "They had to acquire the equipment and set up a water supply at the structure before performing a safe burn."
Firefighters also participated in "surround and drown" fire training, which includes interior and exterior fire attacks. The entire training session lasted over five hours.
"According to the national average, volunteer fire departments lose the same number of firefighters annually," said Anderson. "Each year, we have better equipment, newer equipment and equipment that shields us better, but we are still losing the same number of firefighters. It comes down to training.
"There is no difference between a full-time firefighter and a volunteer firefighter in an emergency," said Anderson. "Each firefighter experiences the same thing. It's a matter of how prepared our firefighters are."
The firefighter training allows volunteers to learn how their equipment and minds will function in an emergency while working in a safe, controlled environment.
"We have new personnel who have never been inside a structural fire," said Anderson. "Every firefighter should be doing several live burns before they ever enter a structural fire."
The Monett Explorers and one Purdy Explorer also participated in the firefighter training held in Wheaton on Feb. 27.