As 2019 draws to a close, and we ring in 2020 with hopes of a better year. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some updates about our team. Earlier this year, the funeral response team was honored by State Fire Marshal Tim Bean and Governor Parson at Firefighters Day at the Capitol. It was my great pleasure to accept, on behalf of our amazing team, this recognition. Each of our five response teams is served by a dedicated crew of volunteer team members, who make it their mission to honor, with dignity and reverence. Without the tireless efforts of these team members, we would not be able to fulfill our mission.
This year has been a very active year for our team members. In following with our beliefs that all who serve should be honored appropriately, we were called to provide service level honors for 37 firefighters who were proudly serving, or had served their communities and fellow man. Sadly, we were also called to serve six families, whose loved ones paid the ultimate sacrifice, by providing Ultimate Honors for those who served and sacrificed their lives in the Line of Duty.
For those of you who follow us on Facebook or through our website, you have seen the activity of our team. We are also involved in supporting the fire service in ways that may go unnoticed. This year, we participated in a state-wide meeting regarding firefighter cancer, and how we as Missouri fire service must do a better job of acknowledging and dealing with this horrible disease within our profession. The topic of cancer is difficult, for many reasons. Current Missouri laws provide little to no support to our firefighters and their families, as they face this horrible disease. We even struggle to identify what cancers are due to firefighting versus the general public who also develop cancer related illness. I left the meeting with many more questions than answers, but also with the faith that this topic has the attention of nearly every fire service organization that exists in Missouri. Each who are committed to doing everything in their power to “do better.”
This year has also brought new gifts to our team. We are in the process of placing in service two brand new response trailers. Through the generosity of Missouri’s fire service, we were able to save up enough money to purchase these units to replace two of the original response trailers. This completes the “fleet” upgrades we have been working on for the past several years. With this phase complete, we are now turning our focus on adding a sixth response trailer. This trailer will be unique, in that it will respond only on Line of Duty responses. Our vision is to purchase professional stage equipment to use as risers and platforms, with safety side-rails, to help us place caskets on top of fire apparatus in a much safer manner. Professional staging equipment is very expensive, but we feel this is the gold standard we must strive for. We anticipate the costs to get this sixth unit in service and fully functional, at $25,000. I would love to fulfill this last phase of our upgrade project by this time next year.
We never charge for our services. Our teams function solely on the donations we receive. I want to take a moment to thank Retired Captain Dale Hart, who is a member of the St. Louis based team. Dale has facilitated our one and only annual fundraising event, our golf tournament. This golf tournament has provided much of the equipment we have in service, and serves as our only regular funding source. Dale puts long hours into the prep work for the golf tournament and does much of the leg work on his own. Thank you Dale!
This past November, we partnered with the EMS Funeral Response team to provide joint training to our team. The two-day Ultimate Honor program was presented and afforded our teams an opportunity to work together and hone the skills necessary to better serve. During this conference, we recognized long time team members Chief Larry Jones, and his wife Ann. They have served with our team since its inception and never turn down an opportunity to assist organizations in honoring one of their members. I hope you will join me in thanking Larry and Ann for their years of outstanding service.
In closing, I can only say thank you for the trust you have placed in our organization. Thank you in advance for supporting us as we improve our service with our new Line of Duty Death trailer.