Full-time firefighters added to Stone/Barry County department

Shell Knob, Mo. -- People in the Shell Knob area can expect faster responses from their fire department during emergencies. The Central Crossing Fire Protection District now has full-time firefighters, in addition to volunteers.

The newly hired captain and the five new firefighters will help ensure that assistance arrives quickly, keeping families in the area safer. It's a job that the new employees are proud to have.

"I just like helping the people and just [feeling] that adrenaline rush of getting into a burning building," Captain Steven Gerleve said.

Captain Gerleve has worked for another department full-time for five years and has volunteered for Central Crossing for the last seven years.

This week, the team is doing some exercises and drills.

"Getting to know that guys and seeing what their capabilities are," Captain Gerleve said.

However, starting on Saturday, they'll start staffing the main station in Shell Knob 24/7.

"They're on 24 hours, off 48 hours," Chief Rusty Rickard said.

Chief Rickard explains that voters said “yes” to adding staff to the department back in April of 2018, by passing a proposal to increase property tax.

"We didn't see this money until about Christmas time, around the first of the year. Then, we jumped right in, got the remodel done on the building, got our dorms put in," Chief Rickard said.

He says the change will get help to people in need faster.

"That's going to allow us to provide a quicker response time," Chief Rickard said.

Two guys will work each shift, meaning at least two trained firefighters will always be available to respond.

"Two people arriving that are firefighter, EMT, well-trained, is only going to help," Chief Rickard said.

Still, Chief Rickard says paid staff are only in addition to volunteers who have been carrying a heavy call-load.

"We've quickly gone from having 200-250 calls per year to having 800. Getting those volunteers to absorb that huge call volume has become a little overwhelming," Chief Rickard said.

Now, they will all work together to make sure people in that part of Stone and Barry Counties stay safe.

"We are definitely glad to have this process started," Chief Rickard said.

Chief Rickard says he is grateful to the community for their continues support of the fire department.