FALCON, Colo. - The Falcon Fire Department has placed its fire chief and two battalion chiefs on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
The decision was made by the department's board of directors at a meeting last Wednesday but wasn't made public until Tuesday, April 30. On leave are Fire Chief Trent Harwig and Battalion Chiefs Cory Galicia and Jeff Petersma.
"They are to have no contact at all with department facilities or personnel," said Board Secretary Greg Huele. "We want to make sure this is fair."
Galicia and Peterson, reached by phone Tuesday, said the chiefs aren't prepared to comment publicly on the situation because they haven't been told what the problem is.
Huele said a prior "personnel issue" led the board to place the chiefs on leave and hire a Denver-based firm to conduct an independent investigation.
"I don't know how long it'll take, but we'll try to get it finished as soon as we can," said Huele. He said privacy laws prohibit him from releasing more details about the situation.
The board named another Falcon chief, District Chief Glenn Levy, as acting fire chief until further notice. Huele tried to reassure residents that emergency responses won't be affected by the investigation.
This isn't the first conflict the three chiefs have had with the board. In 2008, Galicia and Petersma were placed on leave after four firefighters complained of age discrimination during a training exercise. The accusers said that they were evaluated unfairly during the exercise.
During that situation, firefighters and residents expressed concern that Harwig would be fired. Supporters of the three chiefs later attempted to recall two board members believed to be behind the decision to place the chiefs on leave.
A resident who requested anonymity said the situation was resolved with no further action taken.
Huele cited growth in Falcon, and the transition from a volunteer department to one that is almost entirely paid, as factors possibly contributing to tensions between the board and the chiefs.
Some Falcon residents said they're concerned about the continuing squabbles within the fire department.
"It's a little disappointing that they continue to have problems," said resident Kris Miller. "It's even more of a concern and scare considering that their response times are long."
"Having confidence in them right now, we're all worried," said Bruce Scott, who attended last week's board meeting. "I don't think there's anything we can do. Maybe I should run for fire chief."
The board's next meeting is May 15.