A night to celebrate West Jordan Fire Department employees
Jul 28, 2017 11:24AM
● By Becca Ketelsleger
Joy Stearns has her badge pinned by her father, Norman Bowen who has always been a “big supporter.” (West Jordan Fire Department)
The West Jordan Fire Department has a lot to celebrate.
Before a packed room at the July 14 city council meeting, three changes were made within the department.
First, Joy Stearns was promoted to become the first female fire captain in West Jordan in the department’s 40-year history.
“We had over 15 people who participated in the promotional exam,” said Fire Chief Marc McElreath. “Joy was awesome and earned every bit of it.”
Stearns has been an active member of the West Jordan Fire Department for more than 15 years.
Even prior to her employment, she developed an early interest in the field.
“I started firefighter training and ride-alongs while in high school,” she said. “After participating in a job shadow, I was hooked.”
McElreath recalled that he was Stearns’ training officer in 2002 when she joined the department. “She did an outstanding job,” he said, also mentioning that there was another female recruit at the same time who did not complete the training.
Throughout her time with the department, Stearns has been in various roles, ranging from a firefighter to paramedic. Besides earning several certifications through her employment, Stearns also recently completed her master’s degree from the University of Utah in health promotion and education.
While Stearns said that she enjoys the “rescue, medical, hazmat, fire and various other job duties that firefighters perform,” she also has a special interest in mental health issues for firefighters. During her time at the University of Utah, she took classes teaching tools and techniques to help deal with the difficult issues inherent in firefighting. Since then, she has developed and taught a resilience program to the fire department.
“I was impressed with the results and the reception that firefighters had for this difficult topic,” said Stearns, whose badge was pinned by her father, Norman Bowen. “Changing a culture can be difficult, but I am glad that there is more education and interest in this important area of firefighter well-being and training.”
She was later named as the Firefighter of the Year by the West Jordan Exchange Club.
New firefighter Jacob Sorensen took his oath of office and received his badge.
After being hired by the department, every new firefighter must go through a one-year probation period before their badge pinning. Sorensen is the newest member of the department to complete that probationary period.
Sorensen has been a member of the Utah Army National Guard for 10 years and has served in three deployments. He has also earned several awards for his rescue efforts with them.
In 2012, after coming home from his first two deployments, Sorensen began volunteering with the Mendon, Utah, fire department. He volunteered there for roughly a year before being sent to Afghanistan for a third deployment.
“On this deployment, I was put into a platoon with multiple full-time firefighters, to include West Jordan Paramedic Zack Kesler,” said Sorensen. “Seeing how these guys operated and how their attitudes were, I was drawn to them.”
Sorensen and his wife are expecting their first child this August.
Finally, two new full-time staff members have been added to the West Jordan Fire Department.
Within the department, the need for employees to help with logistics and education programs is always present. The question of how to adequately staff for these duties can sometimes be a challenge. Through recent retirements, a fire captain position was eliminated, which freed up availability for two civilian employees.
“They have both done an amazing job in the six months that they have been here,” said McElreath.
Terron Bowen was hired as the Fire Service Officer for logistics, with duties including maintaining the department’s fleet and inventorying medical supplies.
Prior to being hired with West Jordan Fire Department, Bowen entered the field as volunteer firefighter in 2012. He is currently also working as a part-time firefighter with Unified Fire Authority.
Thomas Smith, known as Woody, was hired as the Fire Service Officer for prevention and public education. Part of his duties involve teaching merit badge classes to local Boy Scouts, teaching CPR classes and doing fire inspections.
Smith also serves as a firefighter for Brigham City, South Ogden District and Unified Fire Authority. In 2016, he completed his bachelor’s degree from Utah Valley University in emergency services.
Both Bowen and Smith aspire to become full-time firefighters.
“It is probably in the future of their time that they will transition into being a firefighter, but we want to keep them for as long as we can doing what they are doing because they both do a great job,” said McElreath.
When fully staffed, the department has 87 full-time employees.
These changes come right before the department’s busiest time of the year. On June 14, the department issued its fire work restriction notice for dates surrounding Independence Day and Pioneer Day.
“These restrictions are in place to help keep people and property safe,” stated McElreath in the release.