A community newsletter serving New Melle, Defiance, Augus​ta, Marthasville, Dutzow​​ a​nd surrounding areas.

New Melle Fire Protection District 2023 Awards Banquet

On Saturday, February 10, 2024, the New Melle Fire Protection District held its Annual Awards Banquet at Defiance Ridge Vineyards. Chief Dan Casey began the 2023 Banquet by expressing his gratitude to the retired firefighters, the Board and Auxiliary members, spouses, and families of NMFPD.

After dinner, Chief Dan Casey presented an overview of the current state of the district and the 2023 NMFPD Awards.


The NMFPD members in attendance for the 2023 Awards Banquet at Defiance Ridge Vineyards.

The New Melle Fire Protection District had an exciting 2023. The District was increasingly busy with large-scale emergencies, training, continuing education opportunities, public relations, educational events, hose and hydrant testing, fire inspections and apparatus maintenance.

A significant accomplishment in 2023 and a long time coming was the groundbreaking on the new 6-million-dollar Station #1 and Administration Facility, scheduled to be completed this fall. The process of the new construction is quite an undertaking. It takes a great deal of effort and time to maintain a comprehensive understanding of the contractors, architects, and paperwork. Chris Cuddahee's exceptional efforts and dedication saved the NMFPD thousands of dollars, and for that, they expressed their profound gratitude. Chief Casey stated, “This is a testament to the vital work of our committee members, volunteers, and staff to work through the many challenges of inflation, supply chain issues, and many other post-COVID-19 challenges. As the New Melle Fire Protection District continues to grow, we have been able to maintain high levels of efficiency and service due to the commitment of our employees and members to the District's mission, Community First.”

In 2023, the NMFPD responded to 861 calls for service, which is an increase of 25% from the previous year’s 701 calls. Out of those 861 calls, 491 were EMS calls and 370 were fire incidents. The District responded to 18 working structure fires, nine vehicle fires, 16 brush fires, and 67 vehicle crashes.

(C)The response time standards for the industry are to have at least four personnel on the scene of an emergency within four minutes, 90% of the time. However, the department is currently facing staffing and coverage challenges that make it extremely difficult to meet this standard. As of now the District is averaging a response time of just over 10 minutes with just 3 personnel only 56% of the time.

The NMFPD leadership is aware of these challenges and has already begun discussions on how to address them. During their strategic planning, they will develop a strategy that helps them improve their ability to reach the response time standards. This will include adding full-time personnel and fire stations in (C)the future. Overall, the NMFPD is committed to providing the best possible service to the community. They recognize the need for improvement and are taking steps to address the challenges they face.

In 2023, the New Melle Fire Protection District recorded more than 3702 hours of training, which is an essential aspect of the fire service. The crews must always be ready to face any challenge that may affect the community, such as responding to fires, technical rescues, hazardous materials, natural disasters, and other calls for service. The department has a comprehensive training program that includes continuing education, certification, and hands-on training. The NMFPD takes pride in this program to ensure that its members are well-prepared and equipped to serve the community.

In addition to the new firehouse #1, other capital projects included the purchase of two rescue boats from Central County Fire and Rescue that should be ready for delivery sometime this spring. They also purchased new thermal imaging cameras for each apparatus, with 50 percent of those funds coming from a grant from the State of Missouri. Chief Casey stated, “It is important to continue to improve our ability to serve the community efficiently, keeping in mind the possible hazards we may face while also keeping within the limits of our budget.”

Chief Casey concluded his address by emphasizing the importance of adapting to change. He acknowledged that change is inevitable and will require the department to act as a team to meet the challenges ahead while continuously improving. He also compared the daily challenges faced by firefighters to Super Bowls, where there are no second chances. To prepare for the worst and hope for the best, they always remain well-trained and ready. Chief Casey recognized that their team is composed of star players, grizzled veterans, rookies, and free agents, all doing their part to make the team successful. He expressed his pride in each firefighter and his confidence in their abilities to work hard and achieve their goals as a team.

The following awards were presented:
Service Awards were presented to Firefighter Gabriel Schneider - 5 years, Firefighter Chris Bledsoe - 10 years, Captain Doug Busken - 20 years, Firefighter Thomas Fox - 20 years, Captain Steve Elfrink - 35 years, Captain Mike Colbert - 40 years, Division Chief Kevin Martin - 45 years.

gabe schneider 5yrs.jpg
Chief Dan Casey (L),
Division Chief Kevin Martin (C) and 
Firefighter Gabriel Schneider - 5 years 

chris bledsoe 10 yrs.jpg
(C) Firefighter Chris Bledsoe - 10 years

cpt. doug busken 20 years crop.jpg
(R) Captain Doug Busken - 20 years

firefighter tom fox 20 yrs.jpg
(R) Firefighter Thomas Fox - 20 years

cpt. steve elfrink 35 yrs crop.jpg
 (R) Captain Steve Elfrink - 35 years

cpt mike colbert 40 yrs crop.jpg
(C) Captain Mike Colbert, 40 years

division chief kevin martin 45 yrs crop.jpg
(R) Division Chief
Kevin Martin - 45 years

Most Alarms answered by volunteers went to Gabe Schneider and Dan Ploesser this year.

dan ploesser most alarms crop.jpg
Most Volunteer Alarms, Dan Ploesser (C)

gabe schneider most alarms crop.jpg

Most Volunteer Alarms, Gabe Schneider (C)

Heart Saver Awards went to Brennen Roberts, Cole Litteken, Ryan Austin, Cpt. Doug Busken, Dennis Goins, Dan Main, Pat Milligan, Dan Ploesser, Kamryn Marcotte, and Doug Raines for their actions on December 5, 2023, when responding to a call with a male victim in cardiac arrest. The victim was lying in the driveway when they arrived. The victim received defibrillation on the scene and survived. He was discharged from the hospital a few days later, thanks to the prompt actions of those who responded.


Heart Saver awards presented by (L - R) Chief Dan Casey went to Brennan Roberts,
Cole Litteken, Cpt. Doug Busken, Ryan Austin, Dennis Goins, Dan Main, Dan Ploesser
and Kamryn Marcotte. Not pictured: Pat Milligan and Doug Rains. 

In November 2022, the crew of truck 8914 was dispatched to a house fire. However, there was some confusion regarding the details of the situation. The crew rushed to the scene and began to work immediately. It was only after they arrived that they realized the severity of the situation: there were two people trapped inside the burning house. Despite this for 10 minutes, the three men of 8914 were the only ones on the scene and did everything within their powers to save them. Chief Casey nominated the crew for the highest honor given by the MO Association of Fire Chiefs, recognizing their efforts during the attempted rescue. The crew of 8914 included Caption Mike Colbert, Mike Webbink and Jeff Capstick. Colbert and Capstick also both received the Silver Medal of Valor for placing themselves in danger in attempting to rescue the victims.

cpt. mike colbert, jeff capstick mike webbink crop.jpg
(L - R) Cpt. Mike Colbert, Jeff Capstick and
Mike Webbink 
received the highest honors
for heroic efforts in Nov. of 2022. 
and Capstick both received the
Silver Medal of Valor. 

There was also one retirement in 2023. Captain Daniel Opfer retired after 40 years with the department. Dan joined the department in 1984 and was the dedicated person for Station #2 for quite some time. Dan trained to become an EMT, firefighter, engineer, and tanker operator during his 40-year career as a volunteer firefighter. He was the top responder for years, and his home is filled with many awards and trophies from his career. Captain Steve Martin told Dan, “As you retire, remember you carry with you the gratitude and respect of the department and the community. Thank you for your service, hours of dedication and the hours away from home and your loved ones, and most of all, we are grateful for your friendship and support of the NMFPD.”

opfer retirement 40 yrs crop.jpg
Cpt. Daniel Opfer retired
after 40 years. Dan
received a new fly rod
and reel to enjoy in his

Chief Casey expressed gratitude to everyone who attended the Awards Banquet and emphasized the importance of coming together as a family to recognize and acknowledge each other's contributions. The Chief extended a special thanks to the O’Fallon Fire Protection District Honor Guard, the Greater St. Louis Area Firefighter Highland Guard, and Chaplain Maxx Fisher for their involvement in the event. Additionally, Scott Repke was thanked for creating the “Our Year in Review Video”, and Defiance Ridge Vineyards for accommodating the department’s budget for the event.

dining room.jpg

The Greater St Louis Area Firefighter Highland Guard.jpg

The Greater St. Louis Area Firefighter Highland Guard.

Editor's Note: Thank you to every member, big or small, of the NMFPD. Thank you for your dedication to our community. To those who put their lives at risk every day and the countless hours you give, there are no words great enough to express the deserved gratitude.