Summit County firefighters denounce departure of Chief Nelson

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — Earlier this November, North Summit Fire District (NSFD) Chief Ian Nelson was terminated by the Summit County Council after the move was recommended unanimously by the North Summit Fire District Administrative Control Board.

At the time of Nelson’s dismissal, no reason was given. Fellow firefighters are now speaking out.

In a letter written anonymously because they cannot “speak freely and live in fear of retaliation by NSFD Administrative Control Board,” firefighters said there is a “toxic leadership environment” at the Board.

The source wrote that the board “has lost our confidence to stand above their personal agendas and to place the needs and growth of our community above all else. In short, the individuals who make up the Board have demonstrated they place themselves and their wants above what is best for the community and its Fire Department.”

In a Facebook post published on Tuesday, South Summit Fire Chief Scott Anderson questioned the lack of reasoning behind Nelson’s departure. “What happened to government transparency? Did he not take the commissioners to lunch? Did he not remember their birthday? Did he not hire their brother-in-law? Who knows? How are we as voters to know if the people in charge (In this case the commissioners both fire and county) are using their authority in the best interest of the public when they will not justify their actions,” Anderson wrote.

He continued — “I have known Chief Nelson for only a short time, a few years at best. However, in a sense I have also known him for a very long time. He is like most people in the Fire Service, Law Enforcement, Emergency Medical Services, and the Military. He has a deep desire to serve the community along with his brothers and sisters in the fire service. He has high standards he is committed to doing the right thing for the right reason in any situation.

“Could it be that he did what a Fire Chief is supposed to do, stand up for his fire fighters and the public? Could it be that he challenged those people with experience and insights they don’t have? Overseeing a volunteer organization like a fire department definitely has many challenges that are not as prevalent in fulltime departments or other businesses.

“He strived to make the department better able to service and protect the public and the community. He was dedicated and passionate about improving the level of service that his department was able to provide to the community. He fought for his fire fighters to get better equipment, more and better training, and more staffing. I have recently talked with some of the fire fighters on NSFD and they are crushed by this action. They support his past actions and the way he has run the department. However, they are also fearful that if they speak out that they will be next.

“Via Zoom, I have sat in on several of the NSFD commissioner’s meetings. The beatings he endured in those meetings was certainly more than anyone should have put up with. I admire him and his dedication to the department. North Summit has lost a good man and a good leader in their fire department. My condolences to the department, the community and the people who live in North Summit.”

In another statement, retired NSFD Chief Kenneth Smith said “Chief Nelson is guilty of nothing other than failing to agree with and support the personal agendas of some current fire board members.”

“Perhaps the Fireboard should spell out what is wrong, in their eyes, with the current culture and provide a detailed description of their proposed alternatives?”

The North Summit Fire District Administrative Control Board could not be reached for comment.

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