Fifty new volunteers for the Boone County Fire Protection District began training last week to boost the department’s ranks closer to its target of 320 firefighters by the end of 2005.
To meet the goal, the department would have to complete three training programs per year with about 45 volunteers in each program, said Assistant Chief Bruce Piringer, who is in charge of training. The typical turnover rate for a department the size of Boone County is around 15 percent.
The department sent out 57 invitations after reviewing applications from and interviewing more than 70 volunteers, according to a news release from the fire department. After discussing requirements and commitment expectations during interviews, the district ran background checks on the applicants before deciding whom they would invite to join.
Of the 57 invitations sent, seven applicants were unable to volunteer at this time, Division Specialist Gale Blomenkamp said Tuesday.
The volunteers now have to complete a total of 260 hours of training divided into two parts: fire training and emergency medical technician training.
EMT training began last week and runs every Monday and Wednesday and some Saturdays until the first week of June. Volunteers will put in 120 hours plus clinical time, during which they will work with current emergency response teams and interact with patients.
Fire training counts for 140 hours of the volunteers’ training and consists mostly of classroom work and skills training. The fire training, which starts Thursday, will run every Tuesday and Thursday evening and some Saturdays and will end the second week of June.
A dozen of the new volunteers have previous firefighting experience. Experienced volunteers are only required to complete an abbreviated training program specific to Boone County.
Last week, the fire department sent some of its members to a different type of training program in Emmitsburg, Md. The training consisted of simulation of a disaster in which a tornado struck the heart of Columbia. The purpose for the training was to allow all emergency response agencies in Columbia to interact and cooperate as they might do in a large-scale emergency.
“The training was about meshing assets and resources at the administration level to coordinate emergency effort in large-scale events,” Assistant Chief Doug Westhoff said.
Westhoff added that all agencies were allowed to try new things and challenge themselves because there was no risk involved.
Piringer said the incident management system taught at the Emergency Management Institute has been implemented in Columbia and Boone County since the 1980s. The new volunteers will be taught the system as part of their regular training, Piringer said.
In 2004, the fire department opened two fire stations, one at 525 W. Dripping Springs Road and one at 5881 U.S. 63 South. Blomenkamp and Piringer said the new stations might be a reason for the many volunteers.