Mathisen steps in as North Routt’s new fire chief

Former Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighter Matt Mathisen douses hot spots at a wildfire that burned about one acre of grass and threatened a home and barn in the 28000 block of Routt County Road 41A. Mathisen has worked at North Routt Fire Protection District since leaving the Steamboat station and became the district's new chief on Thursday, March 16.
Matt Stensland/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

North Routt Fire Protection District named Matt Mathisen as its new fire chief, and he took over the position Thursday, March 16. 

“There was no question he was the candidate we wanted,” said Steve Warnke, president of North Routt Fire’s board of directors. “I think he’s excellent. The board thinks he’s excellent.”

The position opened up following the resignation of former Chief Mike Swinsick in December

Working in the fire service since 1996, Mathisen previously spent 24 years with Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue before retiring in 2019. He has served North Routt as a volunteer firefighter since 2015 and joined the staff full time after leaving Steamboat Fire Rescue.

Mathisen accepted the position of assistant chief for North Routt in 2019 and worked directly under former Chief Swinsick.

As Mathisen looks forward to his new role, he said he is reminded of the abundance of support he has received as he transitions from one position in North Routt Fire to another. 

“Chief Swinsick left some big shoes to fill,” Mathisen said. “It’s a great comfort knowing that the surrounding fire districts of Hayden, Steamboat and Oak Creek are such a support with mutual aid or really anything I could need help with.”

Mathisen noted the advantages he had working with Swinsick in terms of transitioning from Steamboat to North Routt. He said that although each district covers some 400 square miles, North Routt is different with around 80% of that land being national forest or managed by the Bureau of Land Management. 

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Fewer residents and more open land may lead to a decreased call volume in comparison to Steamboat, but it also means the department has to worry about wildfires.

Luckily, Mathisen said, the U.S. and Colorado State Forest services, along with BLM, provide aid to the department for mitigating wildland fires. 

The staff at North Routt is already accustomed to working with Mathisen and is excited to watch him take on this new gig. 

“Matt was the clear next option for leadership,” said Paul Rose of North Routt Fire. “He’s very dedicated to this job and community and he’s a great leader.”

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