Three helicopters, several "wrecked" vehicles, and an army of firefighters filled the area behind the old middle school adjacent to Waynesville City Park Saturday. No, it wasn't a major emergency, it was actually valuable training for firefighters from all over the region.

Firefighters from departments such as Waynesville Rural Fire Protection District, Hazelgreen, Tri-County, Crocker, Lebanon, and other departments attended a University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute (MU FRTI) class funded by State Farm's Good Neighbor Citizenship Grant, a grant that recent gifted $54,000 to MU FRTI.

The grant supports special training for Missouri emergency responders and has given $203,600, up to the current time, to MU FRTI to support more than 70 training classes, according to State Farm.

"Right now, 11 of these classes are scheduled for this fall, in mostly rural locations around the state," State Farm said in an email to the Daily Guide about the training.

Area firefighters are able to participate in the training at no cost, a bonus to many departments as there are a good portion of area departments that depend heavily on volunteers. According to MU FRTI, Missouri is served by approximately 29,000 firefighters, 73 percent of which are volunteers.

"According to Missouri's Fire Incident Report System, firefighters responded to over 350,000 incidents in 2015 which equates to almost one response every one and half minutes," a press release from MU FRTI said.

Saturday's training included vehicle extraction training from four "wrecked" vehicles donated by Anybody Towing, a local towing service in Waynesville. Firefighters were able to use extrication equipment to practice and learn how to use the equipment in the case of a wreck.

MU FRTI said the training is meant to teach first responders "competency in the quick stabilization and removal of accident victims thus improving patient survival, while safely managing the incident scene and preventing additional accidents and injuries."

The firefighters taking part in the class on Saturday braved the 90 degree heat, in full gear to learn about response to accident scenes as well as how to safely handle scenes when rescue helicopters are called to fly accident victims out.

The helicopters landed in the playing fields adjacent to the park, directed by firefighters at the class, to provide additional information on the best practices for handling air support at an accident. Emergency service personnel associated with the helicopters gave firefighters a tour of the air craft, explaining features and discussing procedures with the firefighters in the class.

The Daily Guide was on hand during a portion of the class given by the helicopter personnel and video of that is available at

David Hedrick, Director of MU FRTI, said in a press release about the training, "This training project, supported by State Farm, will improve the on-scene capabilities and safety of the firefighters as well as the citizens they serve."