UINTAH — It will be mid-September before Uintah city volunteer firefighters return to occupy the city’s lone fire station.
Since Aug. 8, the firefighters have been locked out of the building at 6680 S. 2275 East by order of Uintah Mayor Sue Bybee. But city leaders are willing to turn the key to the fire station back over to the firefighters on the condition they participate in the training they need.
“Residents want to be protected,” Bybee told the Standard-Examiner on Thursday.
Uintah, a city of about 1,300 people, is currently receiving first responder fire coverage from Weber Fire District, and through mutual-aid agreements with surrounding cities.
After discussing the future of the department at a public meeting Tuesday, Bybee and the council agreed to keep the city’s volunteer fire department intact.
A number of volunteer firefighters attended the meeting, but outside of that, Bybee said, she has heard little from the citizenry as it relates to closing the station.
Before the station is unlocked, elected city leaders want to appoint a fire chief — something the council is expected to do at its 5:30 p.m., Sept. 18 meeting at City Hall, 2191 E. 6550 South.
“I have to have somebody to turn everything over to,” Bybee said.
However, the appointment of a new fire chief does not ensure the department will survive long term. The council is also requiring volunteer firefighters to complete training and receive firefighting certification by March 1, 2013, Bybee said.
The March 1, 2013, deadline is significant because that’s when the city council begins putting together its 2013-14 fiscal year budget, Bybee said, and the council, in its budgeting process, needs to know if it has an operational volunteer fire department.
Firefighters will also be required to be available to the city to respond to emergency calls, she said.
“(It has) to be a fire station,” said Bybee, who locked the doors to the fire station amid claims city-owned fire equipment was being taken from the premises.
Since the lockout, the city has been performing a detailed inventory of the items in the station.
Uintah volunteer firefighter Mike Marz said, based on his 20-plus years of volunteer firefighting experience, he supports the city having its own volunteer fire department and believes its residents would be best served by it.
Regarding first responders for medical calls, Marz said that because the volunteer firefighters work other jobs, they are not the first on the scene to provide medical response.
“But on fire calls, normally we would be (the first responders),” he said.
Part of the problem with the volunteer department has been turnover in its leadership.
Longtime Uintah Fire Chief Dave Boothe resigned Feb. 28. Since that time, the remaining volunteers have yet to establish a chain of command for the department, Bybee said.
The same day Boothe resigned, the council named Denise Vickers as interim fire chief. In June, Vickers was appointed as fire chief, but resigned Aug. 6.
It was shortly after that, Bybee said, that on the advice of the city’s legal counsel she locked the doors to the station.