Chris Mommsen

“…giving back to the community I would say, it’s very rewarding to help other people.”

Chris Mommsen

Chris Mommsen

Volunteer Captain

Station 2: Wilson

Where are you from? Originally I’m from the Chicago area.

How did you make it from Chicago to Jackson? Skiing. Like everybody else, I skied growing up with my family. We skied every year, and after college I knew I was moving to a ski town and this town won, so I moved here in ‘97. It was a different town back then though, that’s for sure.

What do you do for work? I’m a construction consultant and property manager.

How do you spend your free time? I ski, hunt, fish, boat, everything you do in Jackson Hole, Wyoming I guess.

How long have you been a part of JH Fire/EMS? This coming April will be 20 years.

Wow, congrats! What made you want to join initially? You know, the Green Knoll fire kind of pushed me to join. I was building a house down Fall Creek when that fire started and burned. That pushed me over the edge and I jumped on the department.

What is your role in the department? Volunteer out of Station 2. I used to be a Lieutenant but then some of the rules and regulations changed.

What are your current certs? I am a fire 1 and EMR.

What are your future goals in the department? Well, the chief certainly has some goals for me: he’s trying to make me a captain! Well, he is making me a captain, actually. No, I think it’s a good thing overall. I think there are a lot of certs that I don’t have that most captains have and that’s something we’ll work through and figure out. I think leadership is a good thing. 

Was that just sort of sprung upon you recently? Yeah, it totally was. He sent me a text over Christmas break and told me he wanted to do that, so I went down and sat with him and talked to him for a while about it. In order to be a captain per the rules and regulations, you have to be fire 2 and fire officer 1. I took fire 2 in the past, I just never tested out of it. I’ve taken the operator class. I’ve taken most of the classes already, I just don’t have all the certifications to show for it.

That’s awesome, congratulations. What is your favorite part of volunteering? Oh, giving back to the community I would say, it’s very rewarding to help other people. 

What about the most challenging aspect? Dealing with the situations we deal with, as far as life and death and things.

What advice would you give new recruits? To look at it like you’re showing up to someone else’s problem and you’re there to help, so it’s not personal. That’s the way I’ve done it for years, and I’ve been on a lot of gnarly car wrecks…You just put blinders on and try not to look at what it is or who it is and just try to do your job. Do not make it personal, cause it’s a small town and at some point you will run into someone you know.

What is the most valuable trait to have on the department? Compassion and a willingness to learn and to figure out new things because there’s always someone that knows more than you do.

What do you feel like you contribute to the department? Ohhhhh what do I think I bring…I contribute experience, knowledge…I don’t know what else. I definitely bring lots of years, and the experience of being on lots of different scenes and situations that most people have only read about in books.

Do you have or have you had someone that you look up to in the department? That’s a tough one. I mean past guys for sure, but it’s always changed because people leave, but all of our Battalion Chiefs fall under that category for me. I’ve been around most of those guys for a long time and they all have their skill sets that I respect immensely.

So, in terms of family and friends and you being a volunteer, what sorts of conversations do you have with them about leaving for calls and being gone on Wednesdays, etc.? Or how do you manage that? That’s a tough one. I’ve spent all of Christmas on a fire before, we got paged out on Christmas Eve and spent all of Christmas Eve night and Christmas day on a house fire in Crescent H. It’s tough, especially when you have little kids, but now I’m an empty nester and my wife’s used to me leaving at all times and from all places, but you get a lot of respect from people for doing what we do. And, once again, you’re showing up to your friends’ or family’s worst times, and you’re just there to help.