Fire service runs in the family for Tooele City Fire Chief Rick Harrison, who stepped into the role at the beginning of the year.
Harrison is the third fire chief in his family and the sixth member of his immediate family to serve in a fire department. He said he was close with his grandfather, who served as the fire chief in Spanish Fork, and his father served as he was growing up.
“So it’s definitely in the blood,” Harrison said. “(I) grew up around it.”
With 23 years of service in the fire department, Harrison said he’s watched other legacy members and their families come through the department.
“I got to experience the fire department as a young kid and got to grow up in here,” he said. “Now, at my age, seeing the young kids of the firemen come up here and their eyes are all lit up, it’s definitely a family organization here.”
The 50 members of the volunteer fire department are about split between those with a long family history in Tooele City and those new to the department, Harrison said. A new generation of young members with a go-getter attitude are coming into the department, he said.
“I’ve been in for 23 years, and in my 23 years, I can honestly say I don’t think the fire departments been as solid as what it is right now,” Harrison said.
Harrison was quick to give praise to former fire chief Bucky Whitehouse and other past chiefs, who now serve as captains. He said their advice and support will aid him as he assumes command of the department.
“I don’t know of a chief that’s been in this position that hasn’t leaned back on their captains and the past chiefs for advice,” Harrison said.
In Tooele City, the chain of succession begins with the fire chief, followed by the first assistant chief and second assistant chief. Each officer serves in the position for two years before advancing.
Beginning this year, the other officer roles are filled by First Assistant Fire Chief Chris Shubert and Second Assistant Fire Chief Jed Colovich.
Harrison said moving up through the leadership ranks has been made easier by the quality of firefighters in the department.
“I can’t say enough for our fire department,” he said. “I’m very confident in the guys and what they do, and their knowledge pretty much makes it easy to go through these chief’s chairs.”
Outside of the department, Harrison said Tooele City government has been very supportive, providing high quality equipment. He said his family has also been a big help and are understanding of the rigors of the job.
Whenever the pager goes off, the family is getting keys for me, helping me out the door or grabbing a coat,” Harrison said. “Very understanding.”
While Harrison has a day job at Dugway, he says his commitment to the department is a major part of his life.
“Twenty-three years later, I still love it,” he said. “I don’t know if you call it a hobby or if you call it a career. I’ve made terms before that my everyday job is a part-time job because I get to leave it and come home. But with the fire department, we’re on call 24 hours, 7 days a week all year long.”