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New leadership position: Farmington Fire Department hires deputy fire chief

Farmington Fire Deputy Chief Matthew Price is the first deputy fire chief hired by the city. He will be responsible for incident command, fire alarms and sprinkler plan review. Kara Hildreth / Contributor

For the first time in the history of the Farmington Fire Department, there is a deputy fire chief.

Matthew Price began his tenure in the new leadership role July 1, after nearly seven years working in the department, being promoted to lieutenant and captain.

"It is really nice to have the second chief within our department who is now full-time to relieve me of all of those duties I was doing before," said Farmington Fire Chief Justin Elvestad.

Price's role will be diverse as the department's full-time, daytime fire response person responsible for incident command, fire alarms and sprinkler plan review. Price will also work closely with city businesses.

"He is very well respected with our fire department and will be by the community when he gets out there and meets them and starts working with fire inspections," Elvestad said.

Career aspirations

Price, 42, aspired to become a firefighter as a child.

"Growing up, when I was little, I wanted to be in the military and I wanted to be a firefighter," he said.

He sought role models in his father who was a Vietnam veteran along with uncles who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

"I came from a military family and my neighbor was a fulltime firefighter," Price said, seeing how both worlds lead to a life of public service and public safety.

Price enlisted with the Minnesota National Guard due to his personal desire to serve his country and seek the educational benefits offered with military service.

"Through the military I learned a lot about leadership and I came up through the ranks," he said.

In the military, his job was to maintain the health, welfare and moral of the soldiers.

"They were below me basically and you were to take care of them and make sure they had their clothing, their food and their paperwork done, and I did anything from discipline all the way to appraisal," Price said, adding he worked on evaluations. "All of that plays a huge role in fire service."

In his time off duty, Price said he embraces the cold weather and loves ice fishing. Each winter he travels south with a couple guys from the fire department to compete in a yellow bass ice fishing tournament in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Price takes his discipline to seek greater health and fitness and is busy training for a half marathon race in a month. He said he enjoys running and has completed 5K and 10-mile races.

"Staying in shape and being healthy is part of the job since we can get those 2 a.m. in the morning calls, and we offer a free-of-charge gym for firefighters at the other station," he said.

Fire department meeting goals

Elvestad said the department is still in negotiations with city leadership and council about deploying a potential duty crew.

"As the population grows, our call volumes will grow and our paid, on-call personnel are harder and harder to find in terms of recruits and to maintain," Elvestad explained.

The Fire Department welcomed seven paid, on-call firefighters who began orientation July 8. These firefighters will spend the next six to eight months going through in-house training and then attend the fire academy before being able to respond to fire calls.

Due to the major investment in time and training hours, sometimes a fire department hires for seven positions and ends up with four men or women left who completed all the necessary training.

When those firefighters get up to speed, the department will have 57 firefighters ready to respond. The department is authorized to employ 60 firefighters.

Under the leadership of Elvestad, Price said he looks forward to contributing and making the fire department even stronger.

"I think the moral is really good and everyone works well together," he said.

Price said he is also looking forward to visiting commercial businesses to complete fire inspections and multi-family residential housing inspections.

"I most look forward to the public education piece and I really want to get out into the community and begin educating them about fire prevention practices, codes, the intent of the code and why we have it. It is not necessarily for the kids — it is for the adults, business owners and people who visit our community," Price said.

Price will be formally sworn in as the new deputy fire chief at the same time as the City Council approves the new captain position and possibly a new lieutenant at a ceremony in August or September at City Hall.

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