Five Jefferson County fire districts vote to join IAFF Local 2665

Missouri Correspondent

UNION REPRESENTATION: The Festus Fire Department is one of five fire departments/districts in Jefferson County that have joined IAFF Local 2665 in recent months. – Photo courtesy of the Festus Fire Department

In an unprecedented move over the last five months, fire fighters at five Jefferson County fire departments have voted for union representation from the International Association of Fire Fighter (IAFF) Local 2665.

“Our local has never seen anything like this,” said Local 2665 Fifth District Vice President Paul Vessells. “Jefferson is a small county and everybody talks. No one had any complaints – they just want a contract and to ensure both sides have a playbook moving forward.”

The recently organized departments include:

  • Desoto Rural Fire Protection District.
  • Festus Fire Department.
  • Herculaneum Fire Department.
  • Hillsboro Fire Protection District.
  • Saline Valley Fire Protection District.

“Our employees came together to make the jump in October,” said Capt. Mitch Nelson, of the Hillsboro Fire Protection District. “We have great leadership and an awesome board of directors, and we want to protect that for the future.”

Nelson, who serves as shop steward, said he is looking forward to the many resources the union offers, especially any assistance it can provide the district in getting Proposition Full Time Staffing passed on the April 5 ballot. The measure, to be phased in over three years, would increase taxes by 35 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

The district currently has 12 full-time fire fighters, he explained. Six of those fire fighter’s salaries are paid for through a federal grant called Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER). That funding ends in 2024.

“If we lose six fire fighters, we’d have to shut down a firehouse, and that’s going to impact the safety of taxpayers and the well-being of those on shift,” said Nelson, who’s been with the district for 20 years. “Joining the union will provide us with a huge return on investment.”

Capt. Brian Schlichting, of the Festus Fire Department, is hoping the union will be able to help the department grow. The department, which was all-volunteer 10 years ago, now has eight members and would like to add three additional staff members next year.

“Local 2665 will be a big asset in helping us grow, plus it offers many special programs and will help us negotiate our contract,” said Schlichting, who serves as shop steward. “The union vote went well, and we should begin negotiations in the first couple of weeks of February.”

Local 2655 now represents nine fire departments/districts in Jefferson County along with five ambulance districts and Jefferson County 911 Dispatch.

IAFF Local 2665 is the sole representative for the Missouri counties of St. Louis, Jefferson, Franklin, St. Charles, St. Genevieve, Lincoln, Warren and Crawford. For more information, visit

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