Park City Fire fighter Keeping Up a Family Tradition |

Park City Fire fighter Keeping Up a Family Tradition

by Steve Phillips, Record contributing writer

Shelly Vetterli always wanted to go to nursing school at the University of Utah. Her grades were good in high school and college, but not quite good enough to be accepted into the program. Finally she gave up and took a degree in paramedicine. "I decided if I couldn’t go into nursing I’d study something I really liked," she says. That was fifteen years ago. Today, Vetterli admits giving up on nursing school was probably the best decision she ever made. Her reluctant change of heart marked the genesis of what was to become her life’s work and greatest passion.

Born in 1974, the Park City native grew up amid decaying reminders of a once-thriving mining town. She recalls playing in the old Miner’s Hospital before it was moved to it’s current location and renovated. "I remember watching the old Silver King Coalition Building burn to the ground when I was about seven old," she says.

Vetterli was a graduate of the venerable Miss Billie’s School and went on to Marsac Elementary School (yes, the Marsac Building was a school first). She moved to Parley’s Park School when Marsac closed. She graduated from Park City High School, where she enjoyed sports. A high point in high school was a three-week student exchange trip to Russia.

Vetterli took up snowboarding in her teens when the sport was in it’s infancy and is still an avid boarder. ln her 20s, she traveled to New Zealand, Australia and Chile to snowboard. An adventurer at heart, Vetterli traveled throughout Europe in 1998 and China in 2004.

When she began her career search, she took advice from her father, Gary. "My dad was Deputy Chief of the Park City Fire Department in the 1980s and 90s," says Vetterli. "He talked me into volunteering on an ambulance crew to see if I might like that. I really did, and stayed on when the Fire Department took over the ambulance service in 1996."

Vetterli had found her footing. She went on to take fire fighter training at the Salt Lake City Fire Training Center. She’s been with the Park City Fire Department full-time since 2000.

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Ten years into her career, she plans to follow in the footsteps not only of her father, but also her brother, who recently retired after a 20-year career with the fire department. "I guess it’s become the family business," she jokes. At just 35 years of age, she foresees a long career with the Department. "I am so grateful to be working with such amazing people in such a beautiful place."

Vetterli is a rare blend. Quiet by nature and almost painfully self-effacing, Vetterli is passionate about her work as team leader and trainer of the Park City Fire Department’s advanced adult and pediatric cardiac life support teams. "Heart attacks are the number one killer in the United States," she reports. "That’s why our work is so important. We’re always looking for the most cutting edge technology available to provide the fastest care to those in need. There’s so much we can do today to treat these patients."

Vetterli is reluctant to take credit for her work. "What I do isn’t special. Anyone would try to help out another person who’s injured, but it’s just that I’ve got training and experience," she says.

When she’s not on duty at the Pinebrook Fire Station, Vetterli enjoys "hanging out" with friends, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, camping and yoga – standard fare for the average Parkite. Her enthusiasm for ice hockey is harder to explain. "I just love the game, it’s really fun," she confesses. "I play on the Park City women’s team and on a co-ed team."

Vetterli currently has two significant others in her life: a boyfriend and a Catahoula hog dog named Tookie. "I used to be his handler when he did urban rescue for the federal response team," she says. "Tookie specialized in searching collapsed structures. I got him when he ‘retired’ from the team. Now we love to take long walks and lounge on the couch together." That goes for her boyfriend as well, adds Vetterli.

Vetterli is philosophical about how her life is unfolding. "You know how in life sometimes you have a path you want to take and it just doesn’t go that way," she muses. "But it all works out better anyhow. I love my work and I love being able to save lives. I think it all worked out good that I didn’t become a nurse."


  • Favorite things to do: snowboard, ski, mountain bike, camp and "hang out with friends."
  • Favorite food: Anything from a bakery
  • Favorite music: Hip hop
  • Animal Companions: Tookie, a seven-year old Louisiana Catahoula "hog dog."