Missouri’s fire training program has a new director to lead educational efforts for the more than 30,000 career and volunteer fire and rescue officers statewide.
Gary Wilson has been appointed director of the University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute, said Debbie Robison, MU associate vice provost for extension. The institute, established in 1938, offers courses and workshops for beginning to advanced firefighters, other rescue personnel and instructors. MU FRTI has more than 17,000 enrollments a year.
Wilson led MU FRTI on an interim basis since September 2002. He previously served as associate director for five years, overseeing the institute’s day-to-day operations as well as curriculum development.
“Gary has demonstrated excellent leadership in building partnerships with other agencies at the national, state and local levels – partnerships that enable us to offer access to courses and subjects that otherwise might not be available,” Robison said. “He is strongly committed to providing outstanding training programs with up-to-the-date information and techniques for Missouri’s firefighters and emergency responders.”
Interest in public safety training has risen in recent years as agencies struggle with terrorism threats, school violence and methamphetamine labs.
Wilson said MU FRTI has stayed on top of those issues. The institute began drug lab response training for first responders well before the problem drew state and national awareness, offered a violence-in-schools course two months before the Columbine shootings and added staff emergency management specialists and counterterrorism training a year before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
For the past three years, staff members have taken the Mobile Aircraft Firefighting Trainer, a high-tech, traveling, plane-crash simulator, to airports across the state and the Midwest. Funds often aren’t available for local airport fire and rescue workers to travel for such training, Wilson said. The mobile simulator provides a much-needed service to these employees and ultimately to air travelers, Wilson said.
Each year the institute’s programs draw participants from every Missouri county, with training provided in many locations around the state through adjunct faculty members who often are members of local departments or agencies. FRTI courses, particularly highly specialized training such as the plane-crash simulator, attract students from up to 35 other states and from other countries.
Missouri’s institute is among only a handful of fire training programs in the country to have had its noncredit courses evaluated and recommended by the American Council on Education for academic credit at participating colleges and universities, Wilson said.
“It’s an honor to be offered this position and to have the opportunity to lead an institute with such a strong national reputation,” Wilson said. “MU FRTI owes much of that reputation to the Missouri fire service. Its members both value and support high-quality professional training, often paying to attend courses with their own money so that they have the latest knowledge to protect the lives and property of citizens in their communities.”
Wilson’s fire service experience began in 1977 and has included work as both a career professional and volunteer firefighter. He has an associate degree with emphasis in fire prevention, a bachelor’s degree in management and human relations and is a Missouri fire service instructor level IV.