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Boone County, Columbia firefighters team up in training

Thursday, May 28, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 2:22 p.m. CDT, Saturday, May 30, 2009
Eric Hartman*, a captain with the Columbia Fire Department, instructs members of the Columbia Fire Department at a training exercise on Wednesday. Firefighters from both organizations participated in a mock incident where they worked together to extinguish a fire.

This story was updated to correct information on how command shifted during the fighting of the fire. At one point, Matt Schofield of the Boone County Fire Protection District passed the job of incident commander off to *an officer of higher rank, not a firefighter of higher rank.

COLUMBIA — Firefighters from the Boone County Fire Protection District and the Columbia Fire Department met Wednesday at the Fire District's training center for a joint training exercise.

The purpose of the training was to practice organization of command when the two entities respond to the same incident.

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“What we’re trying to do is bring in some commonalities on how we do it together,” said Gale Blomenkamp, one of the Fire District's division chiefs.

Firefighters from both organizations participated in a mock incident where they worked together to extinguish a fire. One of the Fire Department’s trucks, Snozzle 1, was the first to reach the scene, followed by a yellow truck from the Fire District, and finally another Fire Department truck.

"It's a lot of work and a lot of stuff to manage," Blomenkamp said.

Being the first on the scene, the Fire Department took initial command of the situation. Once county firefighters arrived and the Fire Department began to fight the fire, command shifted to Matt Schofield of the Fire District. Schofield said his job as the incident commander included acting as liaison between the crews, as well as delegating and assigning tasks.

“It’s too much for one person to handle,” Schofield said of commanding and fighting the fire. Schofield eventually passed the responsibility of incident commander off to an *officer of higher rank but remained on the scene as the accountability officer.

This was the fourth joint training session between the two organizations. The location switches between the training center and the Fire Department Training Division’s training facility on Big Bear Boulevard.

“It’s really beneficial to be able to switch back and forth,” Blomenkamp said, noting that it provides the firefighters an opportunity to work out of the other's facility.

“For us, it’s a new thing,” said Dean Martin, the Fire Department's division chief. Unlike the Fire District, Columbia firefighters have little experience in joint operations.

In the future, the two organizations will be conducting joint training sessions with their administrative staffs, such as fire investigators, said Steven Sapp, Fire Department battalion chief. There also could be joint equipment purchasing as well.

The final operational training session in the series will be conducted Saturday.

"One thing we're trying to avoid is City Station No. 7 driving past County Station No. 14 without them being part of the response," Sapp said.


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