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Murray Journal

Murray’s new fire chief cuts above the rest

Jul 25, 2018 12:59PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Murray Fire Department Chief and chainsaw artist Jon Harris stands next to his carved homage to Murray’s firefighters. (Photo courtesy Jon Harris)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

A fireman must not only master the use of a hose and ladder but other tools like the chainsaw too. Murray’s new Fire Chief, Jon Harris, has raised the use of the motor ax to an art form.

Mayor and former Fire Chief Blair Camp announced that Harris would replace retiring Fire Chief Gil Rodriguez in June. “I have had the pleasure of knowing Jon Harris since he joined the Murray Fire Department in 1995 as a young rookie fresh out of the fire academy. He was bright and ambitious, and I knew immediately that he was destined to become a future leader in the department,” said Camp.

“I was raised in Atlanta, Georgia,” said Harris. “By loving, hard-working parents who taught me to appreciate and seize opportunities as they arise.” After high school, he graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder. He notes, “That is where I fell in love with the western mountains, outdoor activities, and weather.”

He served over two years on the Eagle River Fire Protection District (ERFPD) outside Vail, Colorado. As part of that department’s residency fire program, he lived and worked at the fire station full-time while earning his firefighter I and II certifications as well as an associate degree in fire science. In addition, he was a ski patroller for Vail Resorts.

In 1995, Harris began his career with the Murray Fire Department. He credits Battalion Chief Brent Fulmer as being his mentor. "Brent taught me the value of achievement through hard work in the fire service. His high expectations were the driving force in becoming the person I am today."

As a battalion captain and chief, Harris was involved in obtaining property for and the building of two new fire stations on 5900 South and Vine Street. He also broadened his training by completing the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program and receiving his master's degree in Executive Fire Service Leadership in 2012.

Recently, Harris has been involved in working with Murray City and the Firefighter Union to update firefighters’ compensation. As Deputy Chief, he was also able to observe outgoing Chief Rodriguez for the role he would later assume. "Through Gil's example of leadership, I have a better understanding of the big picture. With his guidance, I have a better perspective of how the actions and decisions made by upper management impact the department as a whole."

With the planned construction of a new fire command center, to replace the station on 4800 South, Harris will be plenty busy in his first year as chief. Harris likewise plans to promote several initiatives including: initiating new firefighter cancer prevention measures, creating a strategic plan to handle Murray’s increased call volume, developing new incentives for firefighters to obtain a higher education, and encouraging physical and mental well-being while serving in the department.

“Because of his cool demeanor and pragmatic approach to problem solving, I am confident that Chief Harris will be very successful as he leads the Murray Fire Department in the coming years,” remarked Camp. “I’ve witnessed Jon’s entire fire service career and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to select him as Murray’s Fire Chief.”

Part of the new fire station move will include transporting some of Harris’s artwork. As a skilled chainsaw artist, Harris has donated a seven-foot-tall chainsaw carving of a firefighter as part of a tribute to the previous firefighters of Murray City. He has a collection of carved bears to rival the real ones roaming in the mountains he loves.

The chief enjoys endurance races and has participated in various triathlons and marathons, including the 2007 Coeur d'Alene Ironman Triathlon. One of his greatest personal accomplishments was training for and completing the Wasatch 100 Mile Endurance Race in 2008.