After serving three years as the Salt Lake Fire Department's public information officer, Capt. Dan Andrus will take on a new assignment Oct. 1. He will become captain of Fire Station No. 7 in Rose Park.
"This job has been a lot of fun," Andrus said. "It has been challenging and exciting. But I am looking forward to the new job."Andrus, who holds a bachelor's degree in business administration, a bachelor's degree in fire-service administration and a master's degree in public administration, began his firefighting career in 1979 at 19. His father, Bernard "Ben" Andrus, was fire marshal.
"My father served in the department since the 1950s and retired in 1980. I literally grew up around the department and found it to be a challenging and exciting career," said Andrus. "I was first a firefighter. Then I became a battalion assistant, paramedic and then a company officer."
When he became the public information officer, Andrus learned what type of information the media needed for news stories. "There is a certain core or body of information that is pertinent to a story. It took a certain amount of time to find these things out. It also took a lot of mistakes."
In addition to relaying the fire's origin and damage estimates, Andrus said he tries to release the human angle on these sometimes disastrous events.
"How did the fire impact lives? or were there smoke detectors? and what of the elderly victims? are just some of the questions I try to answer. It takes some training and a lot of practice."
Some of the most difficult information to relay involve children, he said.
"I have nieces and nephews and will be adopting a daughter soon," said Andrus. "So when I have to report on a child's death or injury, it makes it really difficult."
The public information officer is the link between the disaster and the public. It is Andrus' job to relay information about working fires and other incidents. But at the same time, Andrus said, it is the fire commander's responsibility to call the public information officer and get him to the scene.
"I am on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said. "This job has always been interesting, and there has been a lot of changes in the last few years."
Andrus said new circumstances have also created new dangers for firefighters.
"Someone assaulting a firefighter was unheard of a few years ago, but now there is the growing concern about urban violence and personal safety," he said. "There is an increasing number of drug labs, gangs and domestic violence that fire-fighters and rescue workers must face every day.
"Before, we worried about the dangers of smoke inhalation and other fire hazards. Then we became concerned about diseases such as AIDS and hepa-titis. Now we realize that the growing violence against firefighters is a distressing reality."
Still, Andrus said he is proud to work with brave and devoted employees of the fire department.
"Firefighters do not necessarily like individual recognition," he said. "They are team members who work together silently. I am proud of serving these few years as their spokesman."