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Logan Fire Marshal Craig Humphreys was born and raised in Cache Valley. He grew up in Millville and after marrying moved to North Logan to raise his own family.

It turned out to be an opportune time for the move. At that time, in 1992, the North Logan Fire Department was just being organized, and Humphreys was more than happy to sign on as a volunteer.

He volunteered as a firefighter for 10 years with North Logan before he moved into a variety of full-time fire service positions with North Logan Fire Department, Cache County Fire District and now the Logan Fire Department.

This week, he sat down with The Herald Journal to talk about his time working with fire.

Q: When you started as a volunteer firefighter, did you intend to be anything other than a volunteer? What were you doing in your real life?

A: I grew up working for local farmers and that through my teenage years. After I got married, I worked in construction, but I always did want to get into the fire service full time. After construction though, I worked for North Logan city, so I was first hired by North Logan city in the public works department and was a volunteer firefighter — then I got hired full time.

One thing I did find out early on is the need to continue my education. I went back to school when I was 30 and I completed my degree when I was 41 — a bachelor’s degree.

Q: What is your degree in?

A: Emergency services administration. It's tough when you work and have a spouse and children and everything to keep up with, but I have always been glad I did.

Q: Many firefighters have a favorite kind of fire to fight. What is yours?

A: Some firefighters may prefer wildland fires. I like the structure fires, if I had to pick one. It is always sad to see people lose property, but the ability we have to help people save their property when their house is on fire is really good.

When you look at a fire and how it is impacting a structure, just from a scientific point of view, it’s amazing to me how the fire, as it takes its course, as it affects the structure — the building construction plays a role in how the fire reacts on the building.

The knowledge of building construction is in high demand in firefighting, whether it is a wood structure, a metal structure, how the components of the structure are put together — it affects the fire on how it makes those things come apart, whether it is quickly, maybe its delayed. Different things really come into play in how we fight the fire and how we keep our people safe.

Q: Describe the thoughts and feelings you have when you walk through someone's personal space in the aftermath of a fire.

A: I think the key word for me once you're in that situation — or two key words — are trust and respect.

The public, they put their trust in us to be able to go into their homes. ... We need to reciprocate that with respect, for them and for their situation.

We have a unique opportunity ... usually, when we are involved in someone’s lives, it is the worst day of their lives — whether it is a fire or a traffic accident, or a medical problem, I really think the Logan firefighters and firefighters throughout the county are great at giving the respect that people need and deserve on their worst days of their lives.

They have all their things there, their pictures, their photos, the things that are dear to them, so we have to respect those things.

One of the things that I found difficult is someone may have a fire, and they may think that the repairs will be quick, and they will be back in their home in a couple days. But knowing construction like I do ... it may be weeks or months before they are back in their home, and it is difficult to convey that message to them. My heart goes out to them because it really disrupts their lives.

Q: What do you looking for while investigating a fire?

A: When you investigate a fire, it can take so many different avenues. My job is to determine the cause of the fire.

It is either a natural fire, such as by lightning; it can be an accidental fire; it can be undetermined if we just can’t figure it out because too much damage has been done to everything that remains. Or it can be incendiary, or man-caused.

The first three I can handle pretty well, but when it comes incendiary fire, then it shifts to a law-enforcement-driven investigation instead of a fire-cause investigation, because they need to build a case.

Sometimes we just don't know. Sometimes we have to wait for lab results to come back, and that may be several weeks. We take samples of carpet or wood, baseboards and things that can be tested in a lab for flammable liquids ... we won't know without those lab tests.

Q: How are tests used to determine the cause of the fire?

A: They can be used to either prove or disprove. It is important to do those tests, because the worst thing you want to do is accuse someone of starting a fire and having it not be that.

Q: New firefighters are often so eager when they go through training. How does that affect your sense of responsibility while training them?

A: They have a drive, and it’s great — they need that drive. As a trainer and as an officer, it is all about directing that drive without losing that drive. But you don’t want them to use that drive to get into a situation that is dangerous for them or their partner. You don’t ever leave your partner or your company. So you do feel a huge sense of responsibility. We have a responsibility not only to those firefighters, but also to their wives and their families and to the citizens to keep them safe.

Accidents have a ripple effect to the families and throughout the community. It is a responsibility, and it primarily rests with Chief Peterson, and he does a great job in leading and guiding and directing the Logan Fire Department.

That is another thing that is interesting in the fire service. We are not only very concerned with the physical capabilities of our firefighters. They are put into situations that are emotionally taxing as well. More and more, we are finding we have to also take care of the emotional well-being of our emergency responders to make sure they are OK emotionally when they go home at the end of their shift.

Q: On that note, what are your reflections on the recent deaths of the firefighters in Arizona?

A: I remember when the Storm King fire happened, when 14 firefighters got killed. When this one happened as well, it really brings to home those questions — are we trained? Are we doing what we should to keep our firefighters out of that situation? I can't say those firefighters did anything wrong. Sometimes things will just change on you, and you can’t control it but need to take every precaution we can so they can go home to their families.

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Twitter: @amacavinta

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