Layton Fire Corps Lauded for Excellence

Monday, 10 January 2011

By Jasen Asay, Standard-Examiner Davis Bureau

Layton's Fire Corps program has been around for three years, but it has already become the top fire corps program in the state.

Acting State Fire Marshal Brent Halliday and state Public Education Specialist Monica Colby presented Layton Fire Chief Kevin Ward with the Utah Fire Corps Program of the Year award during Thursday night's city council meeting.

It was the second straight year that Layton has won the award, and this year it came with a $500 prize.

While the money and recognition are nice, the real satisfaction is knowing that the program is accomplishing what city officials have planned, Ward said.

"It's a great opportunity for people to serve in our community," he said.

"We're real proud of what we've done with it, and we're going to continue on and look for ways that we can make the program provide even bigger services for the city."

Layton's fire corps is one of 12 such programs in the state, and Ward said the Layton group found the secret to making the program successful.

"One of the keys is having the right people involved, and Natalie Tholen certainly has been the right person to be the coordinator to get the program going," Ward said.

"We had a good vision of where we wanted the program to be and what we wanted to have fire corps involved in."

Tholen serves as a citizen volunteer who oversees the fire corps.

Ward said Fire Marshal Dean Hunt and Fire Inspector Doug Bitton have really taken the lead on working with the fire corps and getting the program implemented, but it needed a lot of hard work from the start.

"The first year, we really struggled getting it off the ground," Hunt said, "but when we began, we utilized some of our retired firefighters that started out as volunteers 30 to 40 years ago and invited them to come back and help out with nonoperational types of functions for the fire department."

The membership has grown to about 75, he said, which includes high school students.

The department began two separate initiatives within the fire corps program: a rehabilitation program for department personnel at emergency scenes and a series of public education presentations.

The rehab program is not only made up of retired members, but also has the services of a 1997 ambulance that has been converted into a rehab vehicle, called Rehab 51.

The rehab side of the corps allows members to respond to emergency incidents and assist victims while firefighters are involved in fixing the crisis.

"We respond to people's worst day of their lives -- that's what we do -- and so we wanted to make sure we take care of those citizens and, if we're on a house fire or major incident, that we have our fire corps people there," Ward said.

The fire corps rehab also provides relief to firefighters who are the first responders, whether it is giving them a place to rest or something to drink.

The second function is within the public education area of the fire department.

The Layton City Fire Department has teamed up with drama students from Layton and Northridge high schools, and they perform during fire-safety assemblies at local elementary schools.

Ward said the students write their own scripts, which are quite humorous, and firefighters accompany the group into the schools to meet the students.

In a letter sent to Ward in November notifying him that Layton had won the award for the second straight year, Colby praised Layton's efforts.

"Your support of the Fire Corps program is exemplary, and as proof, several fire departments are trying to follow your example. I have known for years that your fire prevention staff is outstanding, and I am pleased to be able to recognize their hard work with this award," Colby wrote.

"I am most impressed with stories I have heard of firefighters and Fire Corps community volunteers respecting, appreciating and truly caring about one another. This exceeds my expectations of a Fire Corps program, and it is a great tribute to the culture of true service and kindness in your fire department."

Ward said in the near future the fire corps members will conduct car seat installation workshops around the city.

He said 70 to 80 percent of all car seats are incorrectly installed, and the fire corps could really help educate people.

"We're proud of the volunteers and their commitment. That's really what makes it work," Ward said.

"We couldn't do it without them." 

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