The Columbia community gathered at The Crossing church Thursday morning to remember Lt. Bruce Britt, who died responding to a walkway collapse at University Village Apartments on Saturday.
Prior to the service, Columbia residents lined the streets between Memorial Funeral Home and The Crossing to pay their respects.
Britt was remembered as man who valued his family, his job and his Christian faith.
Tim Morris, pastor at Alive In Christ Lutheran church, which Britt attended, said Britt’s signature cowboy attire of jeans, boots and a huge belt buckle stood out in his congregation. Britt almost always had his 3 1/2-year-old daughter Stormy in his arms.
“He was who he was, and we honor that today,” Morris said. “Bruce’s love went far beyond Stormy and (wife) Leigh. He loved his work, he loved the men and women that he served with and he loved his community.”
Firefighters in dress uniforms presented Britt with full firefighter honors at the memorial. Firefighters rang a silver bell, which normally alerts firefighters to their duties, three final times for Britt.
Former Columbia Fire Department Chief Bill Markgraf said he remembered Britt — in his signature cowboy attire — walking into into his office in 1990 to ask for a job.
“You couldn’t help but think, ‘What’s this cowboy want?’” Markgraf said.
Markgraf recalled Britt as the loyal firefighter others wanted at their side at the scene of a fire or extrication accident. He also recalled that Britt had an Achilles’ heel: paperwork.
“Bruce’s idea of a fire report was to say, ‘We arrived on the scene, we found the fire, we put it out and we went back to quarters,’” Markgraf said.
Even coaxing wouldn’t yield much more out of Britt. Ask him how he put out a fire, and he would simply respond, “with water.”
“In the long run, there just wasn’t any hope,” Markgraf joked.
Britt was the second Columbia firefighter to die in the line of duty. Donald Crum died in a fire truck accident on the way to a scene in 1986.
Britt, of Ashland, was born Nov. 23, 1965, to Stormy and Wanda (Howard) Britt in Truth or Consequences, N.M. He was raised in Williamsville, Ill., and he began his firefighting career with the Williamsville Volunteer Fire Department.
He served with the Columbia Fire Department for 23 years, rising to the rank of lieutenant in 2001 after having been promoted to engineer in 1995.
Britt donned cowboy boots and a hat before he could walk. He enjoyed horseback riding, working at the Callaway Sale Barn and teaching Stormy how to be a cowgirl.
He is survived by his wife, Leigh; daughter, Stormy Ann; two sons, Paden and Ethan; mother, Wanda; two sisters, Heidi and her husband Ron, and Kristi and her husband Brian; and four nephews, Clay, Kenyon, Avery and Chase.
A second memorial service for Britt will be held 10 a.m. March 8 in Williamsville, Ill.
Memorial contributions may be made to the “Stormy Britt Memorial Fund” at Edward Jones, 3305 E. Clark Lane, Columbia, MO 65202, or the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Hal Bruno Camps for Children of Fallen Firefighters, P.O. Drawer 498, Emmitsburg, MD 21727.