Everyone knows the Missouri State Fair is home to corn dogs, pig racing, concerts and livestock shows, but some fair-goers may not know the fair has its own fire department.
The State Fair Fire Department is the only registered fire department in the country that operates for just 11 days. About 70 firefighters — personnel for four fire engines, five ambulances, full kitchen staff, administrative personnel, prevention personnel to do inspections, and public relations officials — work to protect fair visitors around the clock. All of them are members of the Firefighters Association of Missouri, which is the parent organization of the SFFD.
“We provide fire and advanced life support services on the fairgrounds. That means we have paramedics on the ambulances, paramedics in the department that can provide IV, whether it’s fluids, medicines, or advanced medical support they’re allowed to provide,” said Public Information Officer Joe Jennings, of Warrensburg. “… We’re also fully functioning in the inspections aspect of it, the prevention aspect as far as doing those inspections to make sure everything is safe on the fairgrounds.”
The department has four fire engines and five ambulances on the fairgrounds. The engines are borrowed from departments across the state, and Jennings said they get calls from departments offering to lend their engines for the fair.
SFFD responded to about 170 calls during the 2014 fair, Jennings said, and it responded to 15 Thursday. An average day has between 10 to 20 calls.
“If you really look at the size we’re covering, if you put that into a municipality, it’s high volume of calls,” Jennings said. “We do stay pretty busy as far as emergency response goes. It’s quite a few for the amount of area we cover.
“Most of what we respond to is medical in nature, especially with the heat we respond to a lot of medical emergencies that are heat-related. Some of that leads into trips and falls, some falls in relation to people falling off animals. Part of the fire service as a whole across the country, most of our response is medical in nature.”
SFFD doesn’t just help on the fairgrounds during its 11-day run. The department has a mutual aid agreement with the Sedalia Fire Department, Pettis County Fire District and Pettis County Ambulance District.
“If we have a major incident they can come on the grounds to help us, but more than likely is if they need assistance with an incident we can go off grounds and assist them, which we just did Wednesday morning, we helped Pettis County with a fire,” Jennings said. “We were also requested by (PCAD) as a standby unit (Thursday) night when they got low on units available. So not only are we here to serve the fairgrounds, but we’re also here to assist the agencies in the area. Sedalia, Pettis County fire and EMS, we’re here to assist them because we’re not the only ones that are super busy during this experience. There’s extra people outside of the fairgrounds too.”
When they aren’t responding to a call, members of SFFD work on public education with fair-goers, offering various demonstrations throughout the fair. Jennings said offering that hands-on experience, such as fire extinguisher training, prepares citizens for a possible emergency in their home or business, showing them the proper techniques.
“One of our main priorities around here is the prevention aspect as far as public education,” Jennings said. “Like what we’re doing (Friday), getting people hands-on experience with fire extinguishers. We’re doing two demonstrations of vehicle fires (this week) so people can see how quickly and how large a vehicle fire can be and the steps it stakes for us to put those out.
“And then every day when we’re not doing an organized demonstration, our guys are out here talking to people. They’re representing the fire service in the State of Missouri. … (Fair-goers) might not get the opportunity to sit down with a firefighter in their local community so this is a great opportunity for them to be able to see what the fire service is all about.”
SFFD will offer a vehicle fire demonstration at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, fire extinguisher training at 1:30 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday, stop, drop and roll training at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, and a car fire demonstration at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22 all at the firehouse. A mock vehicle accident/vehicle extraction demonstration will be at 1:30 p.m. Friday in front of the Pepsi Grandstand.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.