Mittelman takes reins of Murray FDApr 03, 2022 04:52PM ● By Shaun Delliskave
Joseph Mittelman receives the flag from outgoing Murray City Fire Chief Jon Harris. (Photo courtesy of Murray City)
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
At first look, you would think Murray's new fire chief was a fresh recruit, and even Mayor Brett Hales has had to assure those attending city council meetings that Chief Joseph Mittelman is indeed a long-term member of the Murray Fire Department. Hales announced in February that the former assistant chief would take over the role of chief for Jon Harris, who retired to New Zealand.
Being a paramedic is perhaps in Mittelman’s gene pool. While growing up in Payson, Utah, his parents, Kirk and Margaret Mittelman, were volunteer paramedics who had an emergency scanner in their home.
"In a way, I've always been around police, EMS, and fire friends. I remember back in the '80s, if a backup call came into Payson Ambulance, I would hop in the car with my mom, and a few times, the secretary couldn't watch me, so I got to ride in the front of the ambulance. I was hooked as a kid and wanted to be a paramedic," Mittelman said.
In high school, Mittelman started taking public safety courses. At age 18, he became certified in EMS and started working at Utah Jazz games. By 19, he had completed firefighting training and was on his way to being a full-fledged paramedic.
"Not being 21 yet, (paramedic) was always a fun detail; most people referred to me as their kid," Mittelman said. "I can still remember my first IV and intubation when I was 18. Driving a fire engine at 19 was the coolest, though. A kid's dream come true. How thankful I am for all of those that have helped me in the past learn and grow."
Young Mittelman immersed himself in his parents' EMT company, Mt. Nebo Training Courses. Both father and son completed their master's degrees together. In 2006, they helped start the Mount Nebo/University of Utah paramedic program. His mother is now a professor of EMS at Utah Valley University.
Also in 2006, Mittelman was asked to take the role of EMS Training Officer for Murray Fire.
"It was my favorite time of work so far. I miss those days. I think I am a paramedic/firefighter at heart. I continued in that role until 2018. What an amazing experience that was to get to know each of our members through their recertification process, testing, and teaching aspect. I love education and love the advancements that have been made," Mittelman said.
Mittelman has risen through the ranks at Murray FD, starting as a paramedic firefighter and promoted to fire marshal and assistant chief. As fire marshal, Mittelman visited schools during Fire Prevention Week, stressing the importance of smoke detectors.
In 2019, he told the Murray Journal, "We suggest you plan, practice, and know your escape plan. Murray has a wide variety of homes in size, age and design. Each home presents a different challenge for fire alarms and exit strategies. Firefighters don't notice a specific problem within Murray but oftentimes find non-working detectors throughout homes."
As fire chief, his first order of business will be replacing key members of the department's administrative staff, due to retirement.
"We experienced a record high of over 6,900 calls in 2021. Some of the changes include reassigning our logistics, EMS, and certification responsibilities to our day staff rather than shift battalion chiefs and captains," Mittelman said.
Murray FD's roster includes two assistant chiefs, two fire marshals, nine captains, nine engineers, and 32 paramedics/firefighters. In addition, there are several support staff who work within the department.
Along with replacing staff, Mittelman will have to grapple with the changing demands placed on the department.
"Most likely, our greatest challenge will be our increasing calls, inflation of apparatus costs, and attracting the best candidates for hire over the next 10 years. Murray will likely have a fourth ambulance needed within a few years," Mittelman said.
When he isn't at the firehouse, you can catch Mittelman and his family outdoors or on the family houseboat in Lake Powell. Still, he likes the place where he’s worked for the last 15 years.
"Murray is the perfect location and has the most people to be around,” he said. “It's like we have our own little, small town nestled in the middle of a large county."