Firefighting team 'humbled' by local community support, consideration for sensational business award

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: SANDY FIRE DEPARTMENT - Sandy Fire Department crew. The Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce has opened the nomination period for its next Sensational Business.

Among the top three nominees for this quarter's award are Mountain Moka, the Sandy Fire Department and The Sandy Post.

The Post will feature each nominated business in an effort to better inform the community's voting process in the coming weeks.

Up this week for voter consideration, the department has been a local institution for more than 100 years. At its heart, the station is a combination department, run by both career and volunteer firefighters since 1972.

With time, the department has grown in size and scope and its 88-person crew is now responsible for the protection of 77 square-miles in the Sandy area. Firefighters range in age and experience from budding school-aged explorers, to volunteers and longtime career firefighters.

In his 40 years with the department, Fire Chief Phil Schneider has held almost every position possible, from a child explorer to his current role as leader.

"It's been a good, positive experience," Schneider noted. "I love Sandy (and) I love coming to work. Firefighting is such a new challenge every day."

Schneider explained that in the past three years he has served as chief, he has tried to run the department more like a business to ensure "efficiency" and be a better steward of the community taxpayers' money.

"As you grow, it is a business," he added. "You have to make smart choices with other people's money."

An example of how Schneider tries to put his words to action can be seen in the highly anticipated fire station seismic remodel, which finally broke ground last October.

Schneider said the project was largely made possible through intentional savings and smart budgeting, and is projected to be completed by the end of this year.

This year the department was approved for a Level 3 Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating for the one-to-five mile jurisdiction area surrounding its 17460 Bruns Ave. station.

In rural areas like Sandy, positive ratings — four or lower on a 10-point scale — are difficult to obtain because of inaccessibility to water and other factors. The department improved on response times and resources within its radius area to earn the rating.

Companies commonly base fire insurance rates on the ISO rating of the customer's local fire agency, so customers within five miles of the station could see decreased insurance costs.

"It's one thing we are proud we did this year to help the community out," Schneider said. "We advise that people contact their fire insurance companies."

Though the benefits Sandy Fire Department brings to its community are substantial, Schneider commented that he was still "shocked" upon hearing it had been nominated for the chamber's Sensational Business award.

"We're very humbled we got picked (and) that people like the service we're giving," he noted. "The community has been great to us. They've supported us. It just shows that as a group we're doing the right thing."

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