State’s Division of Fire Safety presents Acheson with award

Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Greg Landwehr, program manager for the Missouri Division of Fire Safety through the Office of the State Fire Marshal, left, and Becky Trapani, deputy chief of training and certification, made a trip from Jefferson City to Cassville to present Assistant Fire Chief Derek Acheson with the Training Officer of the Year award for a volunteer fire department. Julia Kilmer/

Fire Marshal praises Acheson’s performance

Fire marshals from the Missouri Division of Fire Safety made a special trip to Cassville recently to present Assistant Fire Chief Derek Acheson with the Training Officer of The Year award.

Acheson was nominated by his peers and selected for the award based on his outstanding support and dedication to Missouri's fire service on behalf of the State of Missouri and the Missouri Division of Fire Safety.

He has served as a volunteer fire fighter for the District for 10 years, has taught fire safety certification courses at Crowder College in Cassville for the last three years, and he is also in the National Guard.

"It's pretty humbling [to receive the award]," he said. "I didn't even know I had been nominated."

Becky Trapani, deputy chief of training and certification for the Missouri Division of Fire Safety through the Office of the State Fire Marshal, who presented the award along with Program Manager Greg Landwehr, said it is rare for rural areas to have such quality fire training programs as Cassville, much of which is due to Acheson's dedication and leadership.

"He's done an excellent job in bringing fire safety courses to this part of the state where they don't usually have this quality of a program," she said. "He's been teaching firefighting courses in Cassville, and the District has supported him."

Acheson has been teaching Firefighting 1& 2 certification courses at Crowder since 2014.

"We teach about 20 students at a time," Acheson said. "Crowder offers it to fire departments at a reduced cost, and they get certification through the state."

Acheson said what he most enjoys about firefighting is helping people in their time of need. Ironically, he did not set out to be a firefighter, but a series of circumstances led him in that direction.

"Firefighters had done a fire prevention presentation at my son's preschool, and they made such a big impression on him, that's when my interest started and it materialized from there," he said. "I'd just gotten back from Iraq, so I went from serving my country to serving my community."

His peers said they are proud of Acheson.

"He had been selected [for the award], but I was not surprised, knowing how he's led in the service in the National Guard," said Chuck Miner, previous assistant chief and current administrator who retired in November 2016 after 30 years of service. "With any volunteer department, everybody has to blend to make it work, and Derek's skills are well-suited for this position."

"He's the one that put out the initiative with the classes," said Millard Andrews, Cassville fire chief. "It's been his baby, and we've let him run with it. We've furnished the facility for all of their training and practicals, and if they need our equipment, it's been available. [The training program] has not only been good for Cassville, but other fire department around here. We're just tickled to death that he got the honor.

"But, it's not about him or about us — we're all in this together. It's all about emergency situations and being prepared, and that's what we strive for."

Miner and Andrews agreed that adequate training is crucial for firefighters to protect themselves and others in emergency situations, and new firefighters must pass stringent written and practical skills tests to become certified.

"It's very important to know your SBAs (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus) which protects firefighters from contaminants and smoke," Andrews said. "But, it's all about keeping firefighters safe, helping them assess the situation and make it safe, and the more training you've got, the better you can keep people from getting hurt."

"It's about firefighters having the knowledge they need to pass their skills and practical tests, which are offered here in Cassville," Miner said.

Acheson's son Zac, and wife, Missy, attended the presentation to support Acheson.

Zac is following his father's footsteps, wanting to start a junior firefighters program at Cassville schools, and he likes attending firefighting meetings with his father.

Angela Seymour, campus director at Crowder College in Cassville, said Acheson has been fantastic to work with.

"He was my first guy to step up and get the rest of the instructors for the course," Seymour said. "He coordinates all the skills testing, the state paperwork and certification with the state, and he is in charge of coordinating with other instructors. He has taken the lead and does such an amazing job to make sure the students are trained right and have what they need.

"I'm excited that he has been given the award. It's much deserved. He makes sure it's a quality class and that the students are well-trained, prepared and safe. I appreciate that he has that standard."

The 16-week firefighting courses offer certification through the state for current volunteer firefighters as continuing education without college credit, or students may obtain six hours of college credit, Seymour said.

"We have guys from Webb City and Arkansas," she said. "They can come from anywhere. If they are a volunteer with a fire district, they can get the continuing education price, which helps pay for instructor costs, printed materials and supplies they use in class, which is a lot less expensive. Part of the agreement is they get to use the fire department's equipment and safety gear, so that helps with the cost. Or, if they just want to take classes, they can take Fire Science 111 and pay regular tuition."

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