Allen and Lisa Wehmeyer have volunteered with the Holts Summit Fire Protection District since the beginning of their marriage almost 29 years ago.
Now, the pair of assistant chiefs and training officers have been awarded the Missouri Division of Fire Safety's Volunteer Training Officers of the Year, a testament to their work preparing volunteer firefighters across Mid-Missouri to serve their community.
"You see a lot of married couples (working as volunteer firefighters), and usually it's one or the other is more serious and the other is kind of a tagalong," Allen said. "I think we each kind of carry our own weight."
Allen joined HSFPD earlier in the year he and Lisa were married, 1989. Lisa followed suit the next year.
Allen's father served as a firefighter in Franklin and Gasconade counties, and the entire family was involved in fundraising efforts.
"We capitalize on each other's strengths and help with the weaknesses, so together, we make a good team," Lisa said.
"My wife is much better at interviews than I am," Allen said with a laugh.
A coworker introduced Allen to Holts Summit's fire department, which at the time consisted of five pieces of equipment responding from a two-door shed next to a ballfield.
"Without their hard work and dedication, I don't know that Holts Summit Fire District would be what it is, along with the other men and women who are there," Holts Summit Fire Chief Jason Turner said of the Wehmeyers.
HSFPD currently has 43 firefighters on the roster, all at some point in time being trained by the Wehmeyers, Turner added.
"They've really taken an inspirational lead in training and making sure firefighter safety and education is a priority," Turner said.
The two serve as instructors with the Mid-Missouri Fire Academy, training volunteer firefighters across the center of the state. Their work provides Firefighter I and II certification programs and training on several subjects, such as hazardous materials, driver/operator and instructor classes, according to a news release by the Missouri Division of Fire Safety.
"Training is one of the bigger time-consuming responsibilities across the board," Lisa said of her and Allen's work as volunteers.
Their Firefighter I and II courses have varied between 12-30 students through the years, Allen said. This year, they have 15 in the 280-hour program that teaches "everything from answering the phone to writing the report."
The class covers topics like how to wear the gear and use ladders, Lisa said, teaching students to become firefighters through classroom and hands-on experiences. It ends with a written test by the Missouri Fire Marshal's office and a physical skills test.
They incorporate other professionals throughout the area to teach, Lisa said, giving a variety of instructors with different backgrounds and experiences.
Lisa and Allen teach together, handling different chapters individually. Lisa sticks more to the textbook, and Allen tries to get students to look at problems from different angles, he said.
"That's a lot of teaching in front of class, so you don't want the same person up there," Lisa added. "Students appreciate a change of pace, too. We do have different style, but (we) still get the point across."
Many of the volunteers in Holts Summit were trained by the couple, and people who have gone through the programs have gone on to become career firefighters, Lisa said.
As part of the award, the Wehmeyers will travel to FDIC International, an annual conference in April for fire and emergency services in Indiana.
On top of volunteering with the HSFPD, the couple is employed full time. Allen works with Weathercraft Roofing, and Lisa is an internal auditor with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
"It's kind of a different change of pace," Lisa said with a laugh.
As assistant chiefs for HSFPD, the two are active in responding to fires and maintaining the department. Volunteers do not have set duties in responding to a fire, Allen said; they have to know and be able to handle all the jobs.
"We have two children, and a lot of times they'd respond to calls with us because they were with us," Lisa said. "(They) sat in the car a lot, or sometimes they'd be helping on structure fires. They'd be giving people water and firefighters water and whatnot."
Their daughter, Kara, graduated recently from Truman State University and is now a volunteer firefighter in Bolivar, living at the station. Their son is studying to become a Lutheran pastor.
"It was her own thing; I mean, we didn't push her into it," Lisa said. "She just decided she wanted to do it and did it."