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State leaders praise public service of Missouri firefighters

by Ryan Pivoney | April 6, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
The United States flag is hoisted by two firetrucks Tuesday during Firefighter Day in front of the Missouri state Capitol in Jefferson City. (Julie Smith/For the FULTON SUN)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Like many children, Michael Bainbridge dreamed of becoming a firefighter.

It's not an easy job, but Bainbridge, who became a Jefferson City firefighter and member of the Honor Guard for the past three years, said it's nice to have the support of local and state governments.

"Every single one of us here is here to serve the general public," Bainbridge said. "We're not here to get anything out of it. I think it's just a calling for everybody, and we're all here for the right reasons: to help and keep everybody safe."

Statewide leaders recognized the public safety contributions of Bainbridge and firefighters from around the state in a ceremony Tuesday afternoon. This year's Firefighter Day at the Capitol coincided with the 50-year anniversary of the Missouri Division of Fire Safety.

Firefighters from dozens of stations across Missouri were present to visit with legislators and hear remarks from Gov. Mike Parson, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and others.

Parson thanked the firefighters for their public service, adding he has no doubt they will continue to be on the frontlines assisting Missourians with fires, natural disasters and more.

"It doesn't matter what time of night it is, whenever that call comes you're going to respond," he told the firefighters. "The public expects us to do that. And that's why you are who you are. That's why you were called to service."

No matter what title they hold, Parson said the firefighters are public servants that must be held to a higher standard than the general public.

He recalled his time serving alongside firefighters as Polk County sheriff and said he understands the sacrifice. Parson lost an officer in the line of duty and his brother-in-law was an EMT killed in the line of duty.

No matter the sacrifice, he said, public servants answer the call.

"That's why we do what we do. That's why we are public servants -- no more, no less," he said. "You wear that badge for a reason and it's to help somebody that needs help. I think those are the important things that we do."

Part of that call to serve requires adaptation.

Sandy Karsten, director of the Public Safety Department overseeing the Division of Fire Safety, detailed the division's progression from a small agency assisting with fire investigations to what it is now, an agency promoting safety on a variety of fronts with staff around the state.

The Missouri Division of Fire Safety was founded in 1972 with seven staff members dedicated to assisting with fire investigations. It's now responsible for 12 programs, ranging from firework permitting and licensing to elevator and amusement ride safety programming. The division is also responsible for firefighter training and certification in the state.

Karsten said the division has a legacy of taking on new challenges and adapting to serve the needs of Missourians. She thanked the firefighters for their sacrifices and contributions to public safety.

State Fire Marshal Tim Bean said he appreciates the state leaders' support and heartfelt statements.

During Tuesday's ceremony, Bean recognized current and former members of the state Division of Fire Safety, including three former state fire marshals and two founding members of the division.

"It's all in the name of public safety and creating a good experience for our citizens, ourselves, our family members and people that visit our state," he said.

Bean said the ceremony had a great turnout with representation from across the state.

Firefighters haven't gathered for a day at the Capitol for the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bean said he was glad to be back.

"It's good to see our fellow brothers and sisters here and be able to unite instead of through a computer screen," he said.

Looking forward, Bean said he wants to continue the agency's legacy and tradition of promoting safety in a variety of areas.

"It's on our watch," he said.

In the accompanying video, firefighters are honored at Tuesday’s Firefighter Day at the Missouri Capitol.

  photo  Firefighter Day was celebrated Tuesday at the Capitol in Jefferson City, during which firefighters from around the state celebrated 50 years of the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Gov. Mike Parson was also presented gifts from firefighter organizations. Here he accepts a bugle from fire chiefs around the state. From right, State Fire Marshal Tim Bean, Assistant State Fire Marshal Matt Luetkemeyer, Gov. Parson, Lee’s Summit Chief Mike Snider, Mid County FPD Chief Scott Frandsen, Eureka FPD Chief Greg Brown, Kearney Chief Kevin Pratt and Johnson County FPD Chief Larry Jennings. (Julie Smith/For the FULTON SUN)
  photo  Firefighter Day was celebrated Tuesday at the Missouri state Capitol in Jefferson City. Firefighters from around the state gathered to celebrate the State Fire Marshal’s Office’s 50th anniversary. (Julie Smith/For the FULTON SUN)
  photo  Boone County Fire Protection District Pipes and Drums performed Tuesday during Firefighter Day at the Missouri state Capitol in Jefferson City. Firefighters from around the state gathered to celebrate 50 years of the State Fire Marshal’s Office. (Julie Smith/For the FULTON SUN)
  photo  Capitol visitors watch Tuesday’s Firefighter Day festivities from the third floor rotunda at the Missouri state Capitol in Jefferson City. The steps were lined with honor guard members from around the state, proudly carrying their department’s flag, standing silently during the ceremony below them. They were joined by the Boone County Fire Protection District’s Pipes and Drums. (Julie Smith/For the FULTON SUN)
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