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Laursen promoted to Mitchell's top fire job

Marius Laursen was named the new Assistant Fire Chief for the Mitchell Department of Public Safety on Wednesday. He officially takes over the role on Sunday, July 15. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Marius Laursen has tried to improve the standard of the city’s fire and emergency medical services division in his 21 years with the Mitchell Department of Public Safety.

Laursen will now lead that effort from the top, as he’s been promoted to the city’s assistant fire chief, leading the fire and EMS divisions. His new job was announced Wednesday by Chief of Public Safety Lyndon Overweg.

It’s been a rewarding climb for Laursen, 47, who moved from firefighter and paramedic to fire marshal, the job he’s had for the last eight years, and now assistant fire chief, all in the community he and his family have come to love.

“We’ve lived in Mitchell for a quite a while now,” Laursen said. “We’ve made it our home and the community has always been on the forefront for me ever since we started here. To me, it was just a natural progression to make the move at some point.”

Laursen’s first day is Sunday, July 15. He replaces Paul Morris, who retired June 15 after 20 years with Mitchell's fire department.

“Marius exhibits great dedication to the safety of the public and to the community,” Overweg said. “We’re looking forward to having his leadership in place.”

Laursen said his background as fire marshal — which monitors fire code enforcement and investigating fire origin and causes — has provided him a unique outlook on his goals for the city in his new job.

“From what I’ve seen from my own jobs, some of the best chiefs come from working on the prevention-side of a fire department,” he said. “I really have had a chance to understand the fire-fighting techniques but also understanding some of the buildings and code issues that we commonly face in this city with the fire marshal side. I think it’s a huge benefit for me coming into this position.”

A Rock Rapids, Iowa, native and graduate of Augustana University, Laursen turned to becoming an emergency medical technician shortly after college and eventually became a paramedic. Laursen moved to Mitchell in 1997 with his wife Heidi, and started with the Davison County Ambulance Service, which later merged with the city’s fire department in 2001. His family includes two children, a daughter Avery, 17, and son Grayson, 12.    

Laursen graduated in 2017 from the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Leadership Program, which was a four-year program to prepare aspiring fire department leaders. The leadership program included writing a thesis-like paper at the end of each of the four years and three of those papers have led to efforts to improve Mitchell’s fire safety. That’s included revamping the community’s fire safety programs for kids in Mitchell through the school system, while other efforts included a fall prevention program and a specific effort regarding fire safety in multi-family housing and educating college students.

He's also led efforts to implement a fire safety inspection program for rental properties and installing the International Fire Code as the city's accepted standard.

All of it is geared toward risk reduction, which he said intends to prevent possible fire situations from popping up.

“We want that atmosphere of trying to reduce risks,” he said. “We want to look at data and other information to figure out what’s the biggest challenges we have, whether that’s falls or false alarms. And what are we doing to solve those things.”

Laursen will oversee the fire and EMS divisions for the city’s Department of Public Safety, of which Overweg is the department head.

Over the last eight years, Mitchell has had about 1850 EMS calls and 550 fire calls per year. (Some calls see both EMS and fire respond.) In 2017, 87 percent of the division’s calls were EMS or rescue responses.

The new assistant fire chief said developing more ways to engage the community will also be a priority.

“We want to make sure we’re getting the fire department out there in the community more and making sure we’re having as big of an impact as possible,” he said.