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North Summit Fire District hires new captains, full-time firefighters

North Summit Fire District trucks
North Summit Fire District trucks.

Changes are underway after Summit County suspended the entire roster of volunteer firefighters in the North Summit Fire District last year. The district announced new hires at the County Council of Governments meeting Tuesday.

North Summit Fire District Chief Ben Nielson updated Summit County’s mayors and county council members on new hires and flood preparation Tuesday.

The new fire captains are Nicholas Jarvis, Dallas Davies, Andy Lutz and Tyler Rowser.

Jarvis, Davies and Lutz previously served in the Clinton City area, where Chief Nielson was a fire captain himself.

“You're in the service long enough to work with quite a few people all over the place,” Nielson said, “and these are some of the individuals that I've noticed that stood out in my mind over my career.”

Rowser sits on the Coalville City Council and had previously served as the Public Information Officer for the fire district, and a Coalville firefighter before that.

The new full-timers are Keith Hubbard, Brian Bevacqua and Nicholas Parker. Nielson said North Summit Fire District’s captains act essentially as battalion chiefs because the budget is still tight.

The county council approved a tax increase to finance the North Summit Fire District late last year. The annual budget increased from $500,000 to $2 million.

Still, County Council Chair Roger Armstrong said it was still not enough to fully staff the stations. That amount would be closer to $3 million.

The budget increase has helped the department transition away from a volunteer model, which drew criticism last year. In one case, a firefighter did not respond to a hunting accident in Echo Canyon. Sheriff’s deputies were on scene within 15 minutes of the 911 call to administer first aid, but the woman involved died.

That resulted in the district’s roster being suspended and Park City Fire District taking command temporarily. Nielson was hired in the wake of that controversy as the first ever full-time chief of North Summit Fire District.

He said the district had stretched its money as far as it could for as long as it could, but budgetary constraints aggravated its issues.

“They did the best with what they could with what they had, but it was just kind of a tough scenario,” Nielson said. “In the United States in general, volunteerism has been lacking in the fire service industry, and so the transitioning to this combination [full-time, part-time] department has been huge.”

Nielson said the department is approaching staffing goals, and has been able to fill gaps with part-time firefighters.

“We're always looking for part time firefighters; we definitely need more of those,” he said. “But we are up to snuff. We're trying to hit that goal that we had in mind all year long, six firefighters on shift per day.”

Most days, Nielson said, they have four or five firefighters on shift.

The biggest chunk of his budget goes toward staffing right now, but he anticipates some future costs on equipment. The district may need another fire engine soon.

“We're kind of struggling there to be honest with you,” Nielson said. “They've not been maintained well over the last 10, 15, 20 years. And they're seeing some significant—well, some of them are out of service, engines and things like that. So we’re trying to figure that out.”

The department may look into purchasing auxiliary vehicles for paramedics and for the fire captains to travel between the stations they manage.

One new tool they’re already using is a trailer that can pump out floodwaters. Nielson said it’s helped save animals from drowning on a North Summit farm.

North Summit firefighters have also been helping elderly and disabled county residents fill sandbags.

“I'm super proud and excited that we're able to help the community with all this flooding, that’s, I would say, most likely going to happen at this point,” Nielson said. “We have had some flooding already, a little bit here in Henefer. I think there's going to be more coming.”

Sandbagging stations have been established at the Summit County Public Works Complex, Kamas Public Works, Coalville Public Works, Oakley City Recreation Complex, Francis Public Works, Henefer City Park and Park City Public Works Building. For more information, visit https://summitcounty.org/flooding.

Nielson says people should bring their own shovels to fill sandbags in case there aren’t any on hand. But the county has tens of thousands of bags and plenty of soil.

The full hiring summary, with more detailed resumes for the new hires, can be found on page 22 of Tuesday’s COG agenda.

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