FARMINGTON — When tragedy occurs, the Rev. Mike Pless can provide informations on resources, provide some counseling or a shoulder to cry on.
Or he may just contact the family’s own clergy.
Pless, pastor of Bountiful’s First Southern Baptist Church, is also the volunteer fire chaplain for the Farmington Fire Department, a position he’s served in since October, 2011. Once a first-responder himself, Pless has a special affinity for the fire service and law enforcement.
He was asked to serve by Farmington Fire Chief Guido Smith, who put together the chaplaincy program for the department. But even before Smith asked, “it was one of my aspirations,” Pless said.
Only Farmington and Layton fire departments have chaplains in Davis County, but they are common in other areas of the country.
As chaplain, Pless’ said his responsibility is not necessarily spiritual in nature. While the spiritual component may be a part of his duties, he more often provides emotional follow-up for those dealing with a tragedy in their lives, he said.
Often that means waiting with a person or family after their own clergy have been contacted.
“Some prefer I contact their own religious organization, but others don’t have that,” he said.
In that case, Pless can offer some counseling and provide information on resources that may be available to help, such as the Red Cross, he said.
“I see myself offering emotional first-aid,” Pless said. “I can’t offer long-term counseling, but I can pass them off to someone who can provide that if it’s needed,” he said.
Pless also routinely follows up with those who he has counseled to ensure they’re OK and to be an encouragement to them, he said.
Pless hasn’t been called to a working fire yet, but he has been called to automobile accidents, one a fatal accident on the freeway in which a father and grandfather were killed.
“The family was devastated by the situation,” Pless said. The family were immigrants and were at a loss as to what the next step should be.
“I was there to counsel with them” he said. “They didn’t even know where to bury their loved ones.
His duties will also include being a resource for firefighters who often suffer trauma on calls.
“That’s in the process of development,” Pless said. “Most of the firefighters are not familiar with the chaplaincy and how we can help them.”
Often, first responders have to deal with things they don’t want to talk about, he said. “They like to be tough, macho, but after a while, a situation can be difficult to deal with,” he said. “This will give me a good opportunity to be there for them.”
Pless has found his duties with the fire department encourages him as well.
“It gives me the opportunity to do what the Lord has called me to be, a minister,” he said. “Not a Baptist, but a minister.”
Smith said Pless is an asset to the department.
“Our customer service is about more than fighting fires, and Mike has shown himself to be a real asset in that regard.”
Pless’ position was endorsed by the city council. The position is strictly voluntary, with no pay, but Pless has a job description that calls for him to respond to the scene of a two-alarm fire, a critical incident, or an injury to a firefighter or a member of their family.