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Morris, assistant fire chief, retiring from city position

Paul Morris has held a wide range of jobs over the years, but today is his last day at what he said has been his favorite. Morris, who has previously worked in radio and electronic communications and taught at Mitchell Technical Institute, is now...

Mitchell Assistant Fire Chief Paul Morris is retiring from public service. Today is his last day with the Mitchell Department of Public Safety. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Mitchell Assistant Fire Chief Paul Morris is retiring from public service. Today is his last day with the Mitchell Department of Public Safety. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Paul Morris has held a wide range of jobs over the years, but today is his last day at what he said has been his favorite.

Morris, who has previously worked in radio and electronic communications and taught at Mitchell Technical Institute, is now wrapping up his career as Mitchell's assistant fire chief.

There will be a retirement party from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday at the Mitchell Public Safety Building.

Throughout his time in that position, as well as while working as an EMT and later a paramedic, Morris said he's enjoyed the variety and unpredictability of his work.

"You get to meet a lot of people, and you get to help a lot of people at their worst times," he said.

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Morris was on duty during the Spencer tornado in 1998 after he had only been on the job for two weeks, but he also delivered a baby in the back of a Mount Vernon bank during a storm.

Morris, a Sioux Falls native who has since lived in Mitchell, Platte, Mount Vernon and then Mitchell again, began his career as a first responder as an EMT. While a member of Mount Vernon's volunteer fire department, he found that few of the volunteers had much medical training. To remedy this, he decided to get his EMT license.

From that point, Morris said much of his career progression was surrounded by good timing. Shortly after he became an EMT, the Mitchell Fire Division began running a paramedic program.

"I thought, 'Well, I really do like this. I'm going to jump into it,' " Morris said. "But if you're going to be a paramedic, you almost have to work in a service full-time to maintain your certification, because you have to keep up on your intubation skills and your IV skills and all these different things."

Although he already had another job, Morris hesitantly decided to stick with the program because he enjoyed the work and was ready for a change. Shortly after he entered the program, he was called to the scene of a serious car crash.

"We worked the scene and we did what we had to do and everybody was professional and calm and we did the job. And after I got done, it clicked that this is for me," he said.

After that, good timing struck again: about the same time Morris finished his paramedic training, a full-time position opened at the fire department. He applied, was hired and has worked there since.

Citing the variety of specialized rescue teams that have been created since he became assistant chief, Morris said he'd like to leave a legacy of having helped the fire department move forward. During his time in the position, the Mitchell Fire Division has developed a dive rescue recovery team, an ice rescue team and a swift water rescue team, among others.

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"In all these disciplines, the guys are specially trained to respond to the incidents that require some of those specialized skills," Morris said. "Thirty or 40 years ago, the fire service was just that, they were a fire service; they responded to fires. The fire departments today - not only us, but all across the country - have now become more of what we call all-hazard response units."

After 20 years with the fire department, Morris said he's ready for another change of pace. After a few weeks of relaxation, he'll be working at the gun counter at Cabela's.

"The first 10 years of my adult career I got to work with electricity, the next 20 years I got to work with fire, and now I get to play with guns," he said. "Really, what more do you need?"

No one has yet been selected to take over Morris' position, although the application process, which ended earlier this week, was open to the public.

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