Fire department springs back to life
By Robert Stevens
Dec. 7, 2017
SPRING CITY—Spring City’s fire department is getting some new life.
After suffering some serious setbacks to the Spring City Fire Department’s effectiveness and volunteer participation, the city is starting from a clean slate to build the department back up to where it should be.
And the community is rallying to the cause.
Spring City Councilman Cody Harmer says when he was elected to office and placed over the fire department, he could tell right away things were in bad shape.
“A lot of people were not showing up to the training sessions,” Harmer said. “There were morale issues concerning leadership and, compared to what it once was, the force was way down.”
Harmer said he initially tried to see if the department could be made whole again through various restorative efforts, but, in the end, the council’s decision was to ask then-fire chief Mark Mickle to step down from his job as chief.
Harmer was trying to find a suitable replacement for Mickle to spearhead the development of a new fire department, when a suggestion was made by the city council to approach current Spring City Police Chief Clarke Christensen to consider taking on the job—essentially filling dual roles as chief of both the fire and police departments.
“I was a little overwhelmed at first when they asked me,” Christensen said, “but I thought very carefully, and we just began making steps one at a time and getting things done.”
Harmer and Christensen have since been working together very closely to successfully get the department back to a place where it can properly protect the community of Spring City against fire danger.
“Cody is responsible for the lion’s share of the work,” Christensen said. Harmer essentially said the same of Christensen.
Both men say the biggest challenge they faced so far is the recruitment of a new volunteer fire crew.
“We just started asking everyone we knew,” Harmer said. “We also asked our bishops in the local wards to put the word out that the community was in need of volunteers for the force.”
Christensen has been using a similar recruitment technique. “I asked anyone and everyone,” he said.
The pair don’t discriminate either. “Man or woman, we have a place for you,” Christensen said.
And it’s working. So far the two have enrolled around 16 people in their fire training certification course, which is now underway.
There are men, women, couples and even a family of four—father, mother, daughter and son—all training to become firefighters to help protect Spring City.
The group began the course, which consists of about 150 hours total of training and coursework, at the beginning of November and does four hours of coursework every Tuesday and Thursday. They also do eight hours of hands-on training every other Saturday.
The training is being done in conjunction with, and assistance from, the Ephraim City Fire Department. Harmer said a few Ephraim trainees are in their class.
Christensen said the training will wrap up in Feb. 2018, and then he will make arrangements to have the class take state testing to get certified. A hazardous materials certification class will be held at some point, added Harmer.
But building a new fire department up from essentially nothing has other challenges, said Harmer.
Although the department has some fire engines and equipment, gear for 16 new volunteers was going to be expensive. The department’s budget wasn’t going to handle it.
That’s where a newly formed 501(c)(3) nonprofit fundraising organization, Friends of the Spring City Fire Department, comes in.
The Friends organization is chaired by Don Chambers and has already organized several very successful fundraising activities to help fund new gear for the newly committed volunteers.
“The community response has been amazing,” Harmer said. “It’s still in its infancy, but it has really had this snowball effect, and we are so grateful to the people that have supported us.”
Christensen said the fundraising efforts have lifted a huge burden from Harmer and himself and have allowed them to concentrate on just getting the training done properly and the new department equipped and put back together.
Christensen, the dual fire and police chief, said the city is lucky it has neighboring municipal fire departments willing to help out.
“Some people take for granted that there is someone who is going to show up when you call 911,” Christensen said.
A new fire crew isn’t all Spring City is getting out of the deal either, said Christensen. Several of the new volunteers are also planning to go through emergency medical technician (EMT) training, which will further bolster the emergency response capabilities of Spring City.