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One year later: Draper has left UFA — how has the transition gone?

Aug 28, 2017 04:01PM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Draper City Fire Department opened for operation in late June after the city decided to withdraw from Unified Fire Authority. (Lexi Peery/City Journals)

Gallery: Unified Fire [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Lexi Peery, l.peery@cityjournals.com

On Aug. 16, 2016, Draper City Council decided to leave the Unified Fire Authority, in a 4-1 vote. In the past 12 months, Draper has severed ties with UFA, hired a new fire chief and staff, and opened up a fully functioning fire department at the end of June.

Clint Smith, the fire chief for the newly minted Draper City Fire Department, said because of the qualified staff he and the city were able to assemble, the transition from UFA has been smoother than he had expected.

“I knew we had good people, training and equipment, but until you actually (transition) you don’t know how it will go,” Smith said. “We have a great workforce.”

Smith, selected by Mayor Troy Walker and the city council in October of 2016, worked through nine months of planning, hiring and training, all in the hopes of creating a lasting department. Over 400 people applied for positions at the department — some local, but many from around the state and out of state.

“We had a tremendous response and we were able to recruit well-trained and experienced individuals,” Smith said. “It’s a unique situation to take and build a new fire department, and we were looking for fresh ideas from experienced individuals…Applicants saw potential in the community and wanted to be a part of this from the beginning.”

Of the 400 applicants, 39 were hired as full-time employees, with 20–25 working part time for the department. The new department members trained for three weeks prior to opening at the end of June; however, recruits were already well trained and experienced in the field.

Having worked for UFA for 21 years, Smith brings a great deal of fire service experience to Draper. Before Draper City Fire Department was operational, the city had to separate, or “divorce” as Smith and city council members call it, from UFA. The divorce was civil, with only minor disagreements arising over equipment and fire apparatus. 

“There were some tough situations with those personal and professional relationships (I had with UFA),” Smith said. “At the end of the day we were able to work together and come to a resolution over issues and questions we’d had through the process, and UFA has been supportive. They weren’t happy to see us leave, and they won’t deny that. Even though they didn’t want it to happen, they were still supportive.” 

Smith stressed that Draper wasn’t parting ways with UFA because of the service; it was because the city saw fit to have more local control over fire services. 

Smith, who currently lives in Herriman, has a strong connection to Draper. He grew up in Draper and has many relatives still in the area. Smith said since officially beginning service on June 30, he’s heard a lot of positive feedback from residents who have interacted with Draper’s new firefighters. 

“Some residents were worried about decrease in service, but that hasn’t been the case,” Smith said. “I think the other thing is the fact that we are truly their fire department. We want to be recognized not just as the firefighters, but we want people to recognize faces and recognize us as real people — not just firefighters. We’re trying to capture the fact we are Draper city’s fire department.”

Now that operations for Draper City Fire Department is in full swing, Smith said he and other chief officers are focusing on building strong leaders among the staff to ensure the department remains strong throughout the years to come. 

“We (the current command staff) want to have happy employees that are fulfilled and who develop professionally for their long-term success,” Smith said. “In the fire service, once you get into it and stay, there’s very little turnover. We hired a core group of experienced individuals for the success of the department so they can fill our roles and step into our shoes as we finish out our careers — building success for the future of the department.”   

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