For Joe Simmons, firefighting is a family business. His dad was the original fire chief for the Cooper County Fire Protection District, and Simmons has been interested in firefighting since early childhood. Now, Simmons works as an engineer for the Columbia Fire Department and serves as captain for the newly constructed Bunceton fire station.
On Saturday, Simmons witnessed the beginning of a new era of fire protection. An open house marked the official opening of Bunceton’s new fire station.
“I’ve known I wanted to do this since I was little,” Simmons said. “This new station lets us better protect all the people of Bunceton.”
The new station, which is under the purview of the Cooper County Fire Protection District, was fully constructed by January. The new facility is larger than the old station, making it better equipped to handle bigger trucks. This new station is also more modern than the previous building, which had dirt floors. It took the volunteer firefighters several months to finalize moving equipment to the new facility and put the finishing touches on the building’s interior.
“This building turned out really nice,” said David Gehm, chief for the Cooper County Fire Protection District. “We shouldn’t need to renovate for a while, and I think this station will be here long after I’m gone.”
Currently, there are 30 volunteer firefighters working in six different stations to provide protection to everyone living in the 198 square miles of Cooper County. In 2017, the Cooper County Fire Protection District responded to more than 440 calls. 159 of these calls were for medical emergencies. The new Bunceton station is especially equipped to handle these emergencies.
“The population of Bunceton is definitely older, so we wanted to make sure we could provide quick medical care,” Gehm said.
The new station has a Quick Response Vehicle to respond to medical calls, and all of the volunteer firefighters are trained in basic medical emergency management. In addition, the station has a fully equipped helicopter pad to transfer patients to the hospital quickly. During Saturday’s open house ceremony, the Staff for Life’s helicopter flew in to present a wind sock for the new helipad. Rep. David Muntzel, R-Boonville, rode in on the helicopter to present a resolution from the House of Representatives recognizing the efforts of volunteer firefighters.
Before becoming site to this new fire station, this land housed Kent and Michelle Biondo’s home. At the dedication ceremony, members of the Cooper County Fire Protection District unveiled a 600-pound engraved stone honoring the family.
The station, which cost $333,000, was funded via a bond passed in 2016. This $1.9 million bond, which passed by a large majority, provided funds to purchase the four acres of land in Bunceton and build the station. Bunceton had its own municipal fire department until 2014, when the town was annexed into the Cooper County Fire Protection District. This volunteer-run fire department is funded by taxpayers, grants and bonds. The same bond money that made this station possible also funded a new station in Lone Elm, which is slated to open in the next month.
“The biggest thing I hope we can offer is peace of mind for all the people living in Bunceton,” Gehm said.