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Fire Chief Wilbanks announces retirement


West Plains Fire Department Chief Kurt Wilbanks has announced his retirement from active duty with the City of West Plains.

Wilbanks began his tenure with the City of West Plains in 1998, initially serving in the utilities department. He transitioned to the fire department on a full-time basis in 1999, steadily progressing through the ranks until assuming the position of fire chief in 2022. Throughout his career, Chief Wilbanks has earned recognition as Instructor of the Year from the University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute. In 2018, he was honored with the Governor’s Medal for his exemplary contributions to the city’s emergency response efforts following the 2017 floods.

Most recently, Wilbanks has served in various leadership roles, including Region G Director of the Missouri Association of Fire Chiefs, District 9 Director of the Fire Fighters Association of Missouri and as the Missouri Region G Mutual Aid Fire Coordinator. He also currently holds the position of president of the West Plains Optimist Club for the term 2023-2024.

Wilbanks is deeply committed to the training and development of firefighters, city officials note, adding he has consistently upheld rigorous standards in instruction, ensuring that firefighters receive comprehensive and safe training. Following his retirement, Wilbanks plans to continue his dedication to firefighter training across Missouri through the University of Missouri Fire Rescue Training Institute.

“I’d like to thank Chief Wilbanks for his years of service to the West Plains community,” said City Administrator Sam Anselm. “I think many in the fire service would agree that few could do a better job commanding the scene of an incident. He cares deeply about this community, and I wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

A reception is scheduled for 3 p.m. June 5 at West Plains Fire Station 1, located at 1901 Kissinger Street.

Assistant Fire Chief Chris Sterner has been appointed as interim fire chief and will undertake the duties and responsibilities until a permanent chief is appointed.