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Retired chief highlights career, experiences with Price's fire department

Sun Advocate reporter

Kent Boyack and his wife, Penny, admire the quilt she made for the Price fire chief's recent retirement. Penny had family, friends and all of the Price firefighters sign a piece of material, which she stitched to the handmade quilt. The gift recognizes Boyack's 40 years of service with the Price City Fire Department.

After serving as a Price firefighter for 40 years and as the chief of the Price department for 18 years, Kent Boyack hung up his coat for the final time on Nov. 30.

Although the longtime chief called it quits, Boyack holds his experience near to his heart and looks forward to what the future may hold.

With four decades under his belt, Boyack explains that he has watched the fire fighting industry improve dramatically and for the best.

"It used to be that we trained only one hour a month, now federal mandates say that we have to train twice a month," explained the now retired chief. "Most of the guys train for two hours a night and on weekends."

The added training requirements not only protect the responders, but also the public indicated Boyack.

He explained that through their training, firefighters learn to use equipment that keeps them safe as well as assist the public whom they serve.

According to Boyack, the Price City Fire Department responds to more than 400 emergency calls a year. When he first joined the department in the 1960s, firefighters only responded to 120 calls per year.

Boyack indicated that the increase in calls is due, in part, to the department's medical assistance responses.

In 1986, the local fire department began assisting the Carbon County ambulance crew and according to Boyack, currently two-thirds of the fire fighters currently on the force are certified emergency medical technicians.

"Primarily, our calls are medical rather than fires," stated Boyack. "But the most satisfaction I had doing the job was knowing that I was helping people."

Training requirements and the number of calls aren't the only things that have changed dramatically.

Boyack explained that when he first started, first responders relied on a shabby phone service to announce their duties.

"We used to have three sirens in town and when there was a fire, the sirens would go off and we knew that we had to go," explained the former fire fighter. "As soon as the sirens sounded, the phone would ring and you would get your assignement."

Boyack explained that at the time, there was 21 firefighters on the force. Each of these individuals was hooked up to a 21 line phone system that would ring simutaneously.

Each person would pick up and listen to the assignment. It would be broadcast twice and then it was off to the station.

"Lots of times you would hear wives saying go away," explained Boyack's wife Penny. "Because it was a conference call, I don't think some of the women knew they could be heard by the others on the line."

Boyack indicated that he worked at his father's clothing store on Price's Main Street and, when the siren would sound, he often times did not hear the emergency signal.

"One of the sirens was located at the courthouse building just down the street from the store, and I missed it quite a few times," pointed out Boyack. "My wife would pick up the phone at home and then had to call me at the store and tell me to go."

Boyack explained that, in the 1970s, the pager system was introduced to the department. The former chief feels that this may have been one of the simplest, yet most important change the department has seen during his years on the force.

For many of his years as a Price city firefighter, Boyack served under a volunteer fire chief. According to Boyack, in 1982, the first full time fire chief in Price was introduced. Five years later, in 1987 Boyack took over as the department's second full time chief, a position he would hold for 18 years.

During this time, Boyack would oversee many changes. One which he is very proud of is the implementation of the Rapid Intervention Team (RIT). By uniting local fire departments in Carbon County, the RIT program ensures firefighter safety.

"It's a two in, two out system," explained Boyack. "If there is a structure fire, two seperate agencies will respond. For instance, when Wellington or Helper has a fire, we respond as well."

Two people from the outside department suit up and remain outside of the structure as back up. The OSHA mandated program focuses on firefighter safety, but Boyack indicates that the public benefits from the system as well.

"Last month, Wellington had a structure fire that we responded to. They were on their way back from a run to Colton when the fire started and our department beat them there and had the fire under control by the time they arrived," indicated Boyack. "In this instance, the RIT system worked out best for the homeowner."

Although local fire agencies are required to offer their assistance, Boyack explained that each department in both Carbon and Emery counties are always willing to help.

"We have gone to East Carbon, Scofield and Castle Dale even," Boyack pointed out. "When we responded to the Hiawatha fire earlier this year, each agency in Carbon County and even a unit from Emery County came out and helped. It's great that all the agencies get along. This benefits not only the deparments, but the public."

During his career, Boyack received various levels of training. But when questioned about awards and honors, he is quick to say that his training is what he is most proud of.

The former chief achieved as many certifications as possible. He even served on the ambulance crew for eight years, but earning his associates degree in 1997 is a highlight in his long and successful career.

"Training is important in this field. With it, firefighters stay safe as well as the public," indicated the former chief.

Although the life of a firefighter is a dangerous one, Boyack seems to be unphased by the risk. In fact, according to his wife Penny, he was happiest when in the middle of a blazing fire. Now, the couple look ahead and anticipate a simple trip to Disneyland.

"I just want to enjoy doing the things I haven't been able to as a fire chief," concluded Boyack. "I was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was hard to get away for very long."

With five children, 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, the Boyacks expect to spend a lot more time with the ones nearest their hearts.

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