ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. — A four-story tower on Mid Rivers Mall Drive in St. Peters is where a training center helps prepare firefighters with the Central County Fire & Rescue department.  

The facility was used on Wednesday to give community leaders a realistic look at some of the work routinely performed by first responders. 

“It’s a day to showcase first responders throughout our county and our equipment and what we’re capable of doing,” said deputy chief Jason Meinershagen, of the Central County Fire & Rescue.

The participating community leaders are part of the Vision St. Charles County Leadership Program. Members suited up in fire protection gear and were led by firefighters into a controlled fire inside the training facility.   

Each session lasted approximately 15 minutes.  Participants were also able to be part of mock rescues, trying to pry open a damaged vehicle.  An aerial ladder gave participants an idea of the heights first responders travel in some cases.  

Participants left the exercises with a renewed level of admiration for first responders.  

“I have a totally new respect for our first responders for what they do out there,” said Jeff Marshall, owner of the Minuteman Press in St. Peters.   

Anna Alt and her husband operate two construction companies.  She went through the exercise and say she now feels more compassion for first responders.  

“It was, very, very intense,” said Alt.  

Kelli Risse is a stress and mindset coach.  She said, “Let me tell you something, it took some mindset to go into that building.”   

Risse said the experience increased her appreciation for the challenges first responders face.  

Mark Hollander is the executive director of Vision St. Charles County Leadership.  He’s gone through the fire training experience before and believes it helps community leaders have a better understanding of how their community operates and how taxpayer dollars are spent.  

The first responder day was a collaborative effort involving fire departments from Central County Fire & Rescue, Cottleville, Wentzville, St. Charles City, O’Fallon, and the St. Charles County Ambulance District.