1949 E St Rt K

30 years of Dedicated Community Service

Howell County Rural Fire Department
Serving Howell County Missouri since 1982

Emergency Dial 911
West Plains, MO 65775
Non-Emergency Dial 911 Business Office
417-257-1270 417-256-0209




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Fire Fighters Association of MO

Our History

Howell County Rural Fire District #1 Celebrates 30 Years of Dedicated Community Service

Howell County Rural Fire District #1 was formed in August 1982 with the help of several concerned citizens who rallied support in the community. Without their support we would not exist. We would like to thank the people who started this project- Dr Stephen Coats, ET Stokes, and Frank Martin III. They saw the need for fire protection in the rural area and did something about it.

Fire protection in the rural area was first given by Bob France. He later sold the private fire department to Bill Ulrich, who started a membership fire department. When Mr Ulrich became ill, the rural area had no fire protection for a short period of time and this is what motivated several people in the community to organize a rural fire department. These people got petitions signed to get a proposition to form a tax-based fire protection district on the ballot in 1981.

In 1982, the proposition passed to start the tax-based district encompassing approximately 186 square miles surrounding the City of West Plains, MO. In the beginning, it was hard as we had very little money, so our department signed an agreement with the City of West Plains to lease a 1954 Ford Pumper and space in the station to use for rural fire calls. We started with only 4 firefighters. Our first Fire Chief in 1982 was Hubert Redburn. In late 1983 or early 1984, our Fire Chief changed to Joe Auffert, who is our Fire Chief today. Later, Cora Kimble, was put in charge of a fund raising drive for money to purchase a pumper. In six months they raised $15, 514 to buy a truck. The board of directors then asked Joe Auffert to help spec a pumper truck, and with his help they purchased a 1979 Ford Pumper with a 1250 gallon tank and 450 GPM pump. This truck was used to assist with rural calls. We later purchased a 1979 Chevrolet 1500 gallon tanker to assist us with water suppor!
t. In 1987, The Missouri Department of Conservation donated a 1978 Dodge 4x4 pickup, and we then purchased a skid unit so it could be used as a brush truck.

In 1989, we leased a building at 401 Washington Avenue. With a lot of hard work on the part of all the firefighters we remodeled this building and used it as our fire station. Later we purchased a 1978 Chevrolet ambulance van from South Howell County Ambulance District to use as a rescue truck. With the help of the public through fund raising events and donations we were able to purchase a set of Jaws of Life and basic rescue equipment for the truck. In 1992, we opened our second station in Southfork, MO to better serve our district. We then purchased a Bean Pumper with 1000 gallon tank and 1000 GPM pump. We used this truck in our main station and sent the 1979 Ford to the South Fork Station. The Department of Conservation again came to our aid with the donation of a 1974 Chevrolet pickup to use as a brush truck in Station number 2. In 1994, we purchased our first new truck- a 1995 Freightliner with a 1000 gallon tank and 1000GPM pump. This truck was equipped with diesel eng!
ine and automatic transmission.

Enough about equipment. The beginning was tough. We started with four firefighters and over the years have grown to approximately 25 well trained, paid-per-call firefighters. Our training consists of CPR certification, Basic Firefighting, Hazmat Awareness and Operations, NIMS 100-200-700-800, Pump Operations, Water shuttle, Farm Rescue, Bus Rescue, Vehicle Rescue Technician and LP Gas. We also have some personnel that have went beyond CPR certification to become Emergency Medical Responders, EMT's, or Paramedic's. Some of our personnel have become Firefighter 1 and 2 certified. We have a required driver training class that is mandatory for all personnel at least once a year. Our department believes in the value of training. You can never have too much.

In 2004, we moved into our current Station 1 on K Hwy. It took a lot of work and planning on everyone's part to make this building a reality. We currently have a pumper, rescue pumper, 2 tankers, 2 brush trucks, and an air support vehicle at this station. At Station 2 in Southfork, we currently have a pumper, brush truck, and a rescue truck.

Our call volume increases every year. We run all types of calls that include fires, rescues, First Responder calls, search and rescue calls, and other misc calls. We also do various Public Relation events every year. We are a very Community oriented Fire Department.

In October 1993, our Howell County Rural Fire District #1 Auxiliary was formed. This group was formed by wives of firefighters and others that had an interest in helping our community and our fire department. Our first President was Gayla Auffert. Our current membership includes: Stacie Auffert- President, Christel Cantrell- Vice President, Ruby Mayfield- Treasurer, Courtney Weaver- Secretary, Oleta Auffert- Public Relations. Our Members are Joe Auffert, Gayla Auffert, Billie Briscoe, Louise Ledbetter and Donna Spencer.

We want to thank everyone that had a hand in starting our department- including our past and present Board members and officers. Without them we would not be where we are today. Our current Board consists of Joe Bean- President, Doyle Surritte- Vice President and Jerry Briscoe- Board Member. Our current Secretary is Fern Welker and Administrative Officer Christel Cantrell.. Our current staff includes Fire Chief Joe Auffert, Captain Chris Wilbanks, Head Safety Officer Verlin Bunch, and Safety Officers Gayla Auffert and Billy Harden. Firefighters include: Dave Johnston, Austin Johnson, Michael Phenix, John Braun, Rick Johnson, Robert Howell, Sam Kinder, Jennifer Leigh, Eric Mondy, Grant Sholes, Lee Arthurs, Nate Bean, Andy Arthurs, Keith Welch, Dudley Collins, Travis Pohl, Jerry Lewis, Joey Spencer, Zachary Woodman and Retired Firefighter Gene Cantrell.

We held an open house on October 6, 2012 to celebrate our 30 years of Dedicated Community Service. At that time, our Auxiliary dedicated a Memorial Garden to the Fire Department to honor those that have gone before us. All are welcome to stop by our Station 1 on K Hwy and see this Memorial Garden. We want to thank everyone that has helped us get to where we are today. We look forward to many more years of Dedicated Community Service.