Lt. Bruce Britt honored for service and sacrifice

Britt died while helping residents evacuate University Village Apartments during a structural collapse last year.
Portrait of Lt. Bruce Britt, a 23-year veteran of the Columbia Fire Department. Courtesy of the Columbia Professional Firefighters Local 1055

Lt. Bruce Britt spent almost half his life as a Columbia fireman.

After growing up in Williamsville, Illinois, he began work at the Williamsville Volunteer Fire Department, according to the Heroes Memorial Foundation. He became a lieutenant for the Columbia Fire Department in the early 1990s.

Britt died while responding to the Feb. 22, 2014, structural collapse at University Village Apartments.

He helped evacuate 18 residents, all MU graduate students and their families. Yet, before he could safely make it out, a second-story walkway he was standing on collapsed. Britt was pronounced dead at University Hospital from his injuries sustained on the scene.

No residents were injured, according to [a statement released that day] (http://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2014/0222-statement-from-mu-chancellor-r-bowen-loftin/) by Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.

“My heart is heavy this morning as my deepest condolences go to the family of the brave City of Columbia firefighter who was fatally injured in the line of duty helping keep the residents of University Village Apartments safe,” Loftin said in a second statement.

Britt was the first Columbia firefighter to die in the line of duty since 1986. In recognition of his 23 years of service to Columbia and his sacrifice, the Boone County Republicans Central Committee will honor his service April 10 during its annual Lincoln Day Banquet with the 2015 Dr. Edward H. Robb Award.

"This annual award recognizes public employees who represent the best in public service, and there is no greater sacrifice than that made by Britt," BCRCC chairman Rick Rowden said in a news release.

Nominations for the award could be made by the public, as well as employers and elected officials. The committee then voted on the recipient. Their political affiliation is not taken into account.

Rowden said the committee’s vote for Britt was unanimous.

“In this particular occasion, it seemed to be without a doubt the direction to go to award someone who would do the greatest thing we all see, and that is to lay down their life to help someone else,” Rowden said. “It was really not ever in question to give that award to Britt.”

The award was originally created in memory of Boone County Presiding Commissioner Edward Robb, who died in 2011.

“We’re definitely the recipients of a legacy that was not only by Robb but also by Britt,” Rowden said. “This is just a small way of honoring Lt. Britt and also to keep the memory alive for Edward Robb, as well.”

Edward’s wife, Rose Robb, said she supported the committee’s decision to honor Britt this year.

“Ed's family and I appreciate that the Committee has chosen to recognize the late Lt. Bruce Britt,” Rose said in a news release. “Ed's entire career was in the public sector and he would be pleased to know that Lt. Britt's service, dedication and sacrifice to our community is being recognized in this manner.”

Britt’s widow, Leigh Britt, said she was flattered Britt was selected to receive the award. She’ll be attending with their daughter, Stormy, to receive the award on his behalf, she said.

“It’s very meaningful to me to know that there are people in the community that appreciate his sacrifice,” Leigh Britt said. “The fact that he’s being remembered this way is very heartwarming to me.”

The Heroes Memorial Foundation’s memorial for Bruce Britt describes him as “a cowboy at heart, wearing boots and hat before he could walk.” It states “he had an incredible, gentle spirit behind the rough exterior and was a fierce defender of family and friends.”

Columbia Police Department’s Training Division Capt. Lisa Todd worked with Bruce Britt during his time in Columbia. She said he was quiet at times, but was friendly and selfless.

“He was the kind of person who was willing to give you the shirt off his back,” Todd said.

The Lincoln Day Banquet will be at 5:30 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott. Tickets are available for $40 online.

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