February 24, 2011

Scotland County Fire Corporation Marks 50 Years of Service

For just a little more than eight cents a day, anyone in Scotland County can insure firemen will answer the call to any emergency on their property thanks to the Scotland County Fire Corporation, an entity that was organized 50 years ago, this month.

The rural fire department organization got its start back in 1961 when bylaws were drawn up by the late John Ed Luther, who represented the temporary board of directors that worked tirelessly to promote fire services for the rural community.

In January of that month Vic Patton was elected president of the board that also featured vice president Norris Gaffney, treasurer Bill Dowdall and secretary Hillis Baker. Others serving on the original board were Joe Jones, Claire Mrogan, Paul Schenk, Harold Dunn, Harold Kirkpatrick, Ernie Glass, Russell Nichols, Floyd Eugene Durham, Leland McRobert and George Rice.

On February 27, 1961, the articles of incorporation for the Scotland County Fire Corporation were officially filed with the Missouri Secretary of State's office in Jefferson City and rural fire protection was born for Scotland County.

The perpetual, not-for-profit corporation was formed with the distinct mission of providing members of the corporation with rural fire protection by maintaining a firefighting organization and firefighting equipment in a suitable location available to use of the members of the corporation.

The move was made necessary due to new municipal guidelines that terminated the availability of the City of Memphis fire truck for use in fires outside city limits. That statute became effective in April, 1961.

Thus one of the major points of business at the initial meeting of the newly formed corporation was the purchase of a new fire truck, a task that was assigned to Hillis Baker.

The purchase of the corporation's first fire truck placed a financial strain on the newly formed public entity. Organizers determined the corporation would need 300 members in order to afford the new vehicle

By the May 11, 1961 meeting, the corporation had 224 paid members, but moved forward with the truck purchase by securing a bank loan.

Because of the voluntary nature of the revenue stream, the corporation enacted bylaws that mandated protection only be offered to properties maintaining an annual membership with the protection service.

The corporation rules state "Persons who do not pay for fire protection do not support the fire department. Therefore, we cannot respond to their fire calls. Our first obligation is to the paying member." The fire bylaws only allow the fire department to respond to non-members' fires if life is in danger.

Over the next 50 years, the fire corporation thrived, adding several more fire trucks to the fleet that protects rural Scotland County in a cooperative effort with the Memphis Fire Department. The two organizations have formed a unique partnership that allows them to share costs of providing fire protection to residents.

Combined, the Scotland County/Memphis Fire departments maintain two mini-pumper trucks, a rescue unit, three full-sized pumper trucks as well as an auxiliary water tanker truck, all under two shared roofs. The department also operates two brush fire units made available through the Missouri Department of Conservation. The latter two units are the only trucks that are allowed to respond to non-member fires. They are sent to all natural cover fires as part of the agreement with the MDC for their availability to the department.

Both entities are manned by the same volunteer force. The 28-man department responds to emergency calls for both the City of Memphis and the Fire Corporation in addition to motor vehicle accidents and other search and rescue situations.

While the municipal fire department is tax based, the rural fire corporation revenue is based solely on annual volunteer membership fees.

Back in 1961, it cost $30 to become a member, with a $5 annual renewal fee. That cost rose to $7.50 in 1974 and then to $10 in 1978. In 1990 the cost rose to $20 before rising to $25 in 1999. The board established the current annual membership fee of $30 in 2008.

The current board consists of president Freddie Henderson, vice president Willis Martin and secretary/treasurer Stacie Dannenhauer. Board members are Tom Fender, Chad Triplett, Wilbert Lohmann, Wayne Durham, Keith Martin, Bob Hunolt, Jack Dannenhauer, Mike Johnson and George Frederick.

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