North Summit Fire District slated to provide emergency medical services next year 

Firefighters might also move into South Summit during transition

Summit County could be heading toward a combined EMS and fire system in January after years of concerns from residents and fire chiefs about an inequitable system.
Park Record file photo by David Jackson

It’s been 18 months since North Summit residents urged the County Courthouse to give their volunteer fire department more support. The efforts included hiring the first full-time chief, transitioning to a part- and full-time model, approving the first tax increase in at least 15 years and making much-needed improvements to neglected buildings.

Obtaining the proper licensure for firefighters to also perform emergency medical services in the Fire District, which includes Coalville and Henefer, has also been a top priority for North Summit Fire District Chief Ben Nielson. He has been a staunch advocate for a combination EMS-fire system in Summit County, along with Park City Fire District Chief Bob Zanetti.

And on Thursday, the Administrative Control Board of the North Summit Fire District took formal steps to make the switch. 

Officials unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with the County Courthouse to provide EMS within the North Summit Fire District boundaries. The Summit County Council will have the final say, but the approval this week shows how far the Fire District has come.

“It’s been almost two years in the making,” Nielson said. “It’s been a pain, but we’ve had a lot of great discussions.”

County Councilor Roger Armstrong, who is also the chair of the North Summit Fire District Administrative Control Board, about a year ago had said the Fire District needed more stability before it could take on services in-house. He asked Nielson to wait for the results of a SafeTech Solutions EMS study as well as the revenue from the nearly 300% tax increase before splitting services from Park City Fire, which operates EMS countywide.

The additional money increased the fire department’s budget from around $500,000 to $2 million. And what have North Summit residents gotten with that? Nielsen said it has helped provide additional revenue that can pay for reliable staff, station repairs and new equipment.

The assessment helped county officials realize the best choices to let each fire department manage its own services in-house or contract with another provider who can. North Summit and Park City Fire are both prepared to take dual duties on, but the volunteer-run South Summit Fire District needs more time.

“This is going to be a huge, amazing thing for our district. People are going to finally have service that they thought they had before but it wasn’t adequate,” Nielson said. “Now, we’re planning on not just having emergency medical technicians at the base level but North Summit is going to have some paramedics also.”

South Summit could ask either fire department to provide services in Kamas, Francis and Oakley until it’s able to move to a full-time system. This decision will have a major impact on services as it gives an additional $1 million that must be used to hire staff and run the district. South Summit volunteers will be asked if they want to join the fire district that takes over.

The county had to consider House Bill 303, which passed during the 2021 General Session and requires the county to provide EMS as an essential service through the municipal services fund and establish general criteria for services such as providing two, full-time advanced EMTs on an ambulance. 

Nielson doesn’t anticipate many changes on Jan. 1 if the interlocal agreement is formally adopted other than things improving more than they already have.

North Summit Fire will staff two ambulances with an EMT and paramedic service, which is new to the East Side, as well as a single rescue truck and between six and eight staff working each day.

Firefighters have already improved response times even though monthly call numbers are slightly elevated compared to last year. North Summit Fire responded to 60 calls in August compared to 57 in 2022 through 2022 and 61 calls in July with 55 the previous year. Around 36% of calls come from inside the Coalville City Limits with 20% from Wanship, 7% from Echo Canyon near Interstate 80 and 6% from Tollgate.

Nielson anticipated calls would start to slow next month. He estimated the year’s total would end around 520. The majority of calls, around 72%, are medical. Fire accounts for 14% of reports.

The North Summit Fire chief said he didn’t expect there to be any new tax hikes as the recent increase helped the fire department prepare for a multilateral approach. Truth-in-taxation could be revisited in three to five years.

The Administrative Control Board also heard from Nielson about ongoing issues with aging equipment. The board also debated annexing territory into the Fire District as officials considered how to best approach the county’s wildland fire service area.


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