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story.lead_photo.caption FILE: The Callaway County Central Fire Protection District's KME fire truck

The 40th birthday of seven Callaway County fire departments promises to be the hottest party in town Oct. 12.

South Callaway, North Callaway, Millersburg, Central, Holts Summit, Auxvasse and New Bloomfield fire protection districts all turn 40 this year.

The community is invited to celebrate four decades of service from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Callaway Electric Cooperative, 1313 Cooperative Drive in Fulton.

The event will feature a light lunch, a "touch-a-truck" event for children, displays detailing the history of fire service in rural Callaway County, fire extinguisher training, an extrication demonstration and more.

"They'll do a mock-up of a couple of wrecked cars and show how we can use tools available to us today to get the car away from you, cut the car apart and get the person out and ready to go to the hospital," said Greg Luebbert, chief of the Central Fire Protection District.

Plus, the departments have teamed up to offer free smoke detectors to the first 50 families in attendance.

State Sen. Jeanie Riddle and Missouri Fire Marshal Tim Bean are expected to stop by, Luebbert added.

Luebbert said 40 years ago the state of firefighting in Callaway County was grim.

"An insurance company in Fulton supported one firetruck," Luebbert said. "Until 1979, if there was a fire somewhere in the county, the city would send that one truck with two guys. You can't really save anything with two guys."

Communities around the county approached the county government to gain authorization to form tax districts and establish rural fire departments.

Funds were tight in the early days, Luebbert said.

"At Central, the volunteers initially did fundraising," he said. "Someone ran concession stands at ballfields in Fulton during the summer. There were times when people would pay for fuel and buy tools out of their own pocket."

In 1986, Central District voters passed a tax to support the fire department. The steady revenue source allowed the department to upgrade equipment and save more lives and property. Currently, all seven rural fire protection districts are funded by taxpayers, Luebbert said.