by Janet Dabbs
The Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District (SBFPD) Board has selected High Ridge Fire Inspector Joseph LaPlant as the district’s new fire chief.
Assistant Fire Chief Jamie Karl has served as SBFPD interim chief since the previous chief left in October 2018 to take another position. LaPlant is expected to be moved to Lake of the Ozarks by Thursday, June 20 and he will take over as chief of the district shortly thereafter.
“It was gratifying to have so many qualified applicants,” SBFPD board president Brian Layman said. “Fire Inspector LaPlant is such an outstanding candidate, that he really stood out. He has the fire-fighting, command, and leadership experience we were looking for and we are confident he will maintain and improve upon our exceptional fire-fighting corp.”
Sunrise Beach FPD board treasurer Denise Dill echoed Layman’s assessment and said she was very impressed with LaPlant’s resume and his studied approach to fire district management. “Inspector LaPlant has the education, personality, training and dedication to his profession that we were looking for in a chief,” Dill said.
LaPlant was most recently the fire inspector for the High Ridge Fire Protection District, south of St. Louis. He was deputy chief of the Saline Valley Fire Protection District in Fenton before taking the inspector position.
LaPlant has a bachelor’s degree in fire service management from Lindenwood University and he is a certified firefighter and emergency management technician. His additional certifications cover all aspects of fire fighting and emergency management including vehicle rescue, hazardous materials, swift water rescue, and basic life support.
During his career, LaPlant also served as a fire marshal and officer in charge of personnel and legal issues for a large fire district.
LaPlant began his service to the community in 1993, at the age of 13, in Lemay (south of St. Louis). His father, a police officer, and his mother, a teacher, were involved in flood relief efforts during the Great Missouri Flood of 1993.
“The levy broke without much warning,” LaPlant remembered. “Many of our friends lost everything. It was devastating. I asked my parents what I could do to help.” As a member of the Fire Explorers, a division of the Boy Scouts of America, LePlant was directed to serve the flood victims by stocking and distributing provisions at a relief warehouse.
LaPlant continued his service to community by volunteering as a firefighter with the Shady Valley Fire District. He rose through the ranks and was ultimately promoted to Deputy Chief in 2009. During his tenure with that district, LaPlant played a vital role in assisting the fire chief in organizing the merger of two fire districts, the Springdale Fire District and the Saline Valley Fire District.
“I enjoy all facets of fire service,” LaPlant said. “Helping the people is the most rewarding part.”
When asked what fire incident has affected him the most in his fire-fighting career, he said, “Every firefighter has a couple of calls that will never leave them. I try not to dwell on those, or talk about them. I am a firm believer in critical incident stress debriefing.” [A short-term, psychological first-aid intervention strategy that can help mitigate long-term mental health issues for first responders who are exposed to traumatic stress, especially repetitive traumatic stress].
“However, I was deployed to Hurricane Katrina for one month where I saw absolute destruction,” LaPlant said. “I was impressed by the effectiveness of incident command and national response plan. The people rose to the occasion and it was amazing.”
LaPlant said his goal in coming to the SBFPD is to serve the people and do what he can to improve district ratings. “Coming in from the outside, it’s hard to say what I am going to do. From what I have seen, it looks like there is already a great program. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement,” he said. “I would like to see the district’s volunteer staff grow. All too often, volunteers are overlooked when you have a combination department. I will have an open-door policy and I invite people to come by to talk to me anytime.”
LaPlant is married to Jennifer and they have a boy and girl, 9-year-old twins. For fun, he enjoys hunting and fishing and vacationing on his 100-acre farm in Madison County. “It is a nice place to get away.” He also plans to remain active as a Cub Master, with his son, in the Boy Scouts of America.
by Janet Dabbs