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Summit County

North Summit Fire District names first full-time chief

B. Nielson.jpg
Summit County
Newly named North Summit Fire District Chief Ben Nielson

In a special meeting Friday morning, the Summit County Council unanimously approved the hiring of Ben Nielson as the first full-time fire chief of the North Summit Fire District.

Chief Ben Nielson will start his new role March 28. He’ll commute from Clinton City in Davis County, where he’s worked for 18 years, most recently a Senior Captain. He was one of 14 applicants for the position, which was created after previous chief Ian Nelson was fired in November by the fire district’s administrative control board.

He’ll take the helm of a volunteer department that has wrestled for years with its culture and relationship with its governing board. After Nelson was fired, county officials say the volunteer crew began work stoppages, which led to the entire crew being suspended for insubordination.

The North Summit Fire District covers the cities and towns in mostly rural northeastern Summit County, including Coalville and Henefer. Its territory reaches to the Wyoming border.

Nielson said Friday he wants to talk to the former volunteer crew and begin putting it back together as quickly as possible.

“I'd like to talk to each individual, obviously they have their own decision to make. Being a volunteer myself I understand personally the experiences, the time and effort that they put in and I don't discount that whatsoever. I'd love to give every single one of them the opportunity to come back. But I understand ultimately it's a respect issue and I do have respect for them in their positions. We'll see what they want to do.”

After the crew’s suspension February 4, Park City Fire District took over emergency services at the county’s request. That agreement runs through April 7 but can be briefly extended if needed.

Nielson said that after restoring service, his priorities include repairing relationships and collecting data on basics like how equipment is used.

“How I see that going as a lot of strategic planning and relationship building may come in from Clinton. It's gonna take some time to get to know people, but also trying to set up systems and programs. There's a lot of data that we don't have that I think we probably ought to be collecting. I think that'll be kind of the first few months to be honest with you, and it's gonna be busy, but I look forward to it.”

Summit County Manager Tom Fisher said job number one is improving fire fighters’ safety through addressing upgrades to protective equipment.

“In the service, they call it turnouts and that has to do with the clothing that they wear to go perform duties as well as the boots, the gloves, the hat, the helmets and some of the breathing apparatus. The chief will need to evaluate and will jointly have to come up with some plans on how to improve that.”

Fisher said another primary goal is making sure all firefighting, wildland and medical certifications are up to date and properly tracked.

“We know we have good people and we have dedicated people we just need to make sure that that we're doing things the right way and documenting it the right way so that we can budget the right way at the end of the day and make sure that people are safe and performing their duties."

Nielson said he plans to bring a culture of teamwork as he works to restore service.

In addition to Clinton City, Nielson also served in the North Davis Fire District. Nielson is also a designated Supervising Fire Officer and Managing Fire Officer through Utah Fire and Rescue Academy. He has a degree in Emergency Service Administration and a master’s in Public Services Administration, both from Utah Valley University.

His hiring will be formalized at a public county council meeting.

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