Cal Fire facing more battalion chief exam problems

Officials notified 488 applicants that they will have to retake the promotion exam this summer because the initial test had significant irregularities

By Don Thompson
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's firefighting agency plans to discipline two employees blamed for forcing the state to redo a battalion chief examination for nearly 500 employees, the department's director said Thursday.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection notified 488 applicants that they will have to retake the promotion exam this summer because the initial test "had significant irregularities."

The announcement comes three years after the department's training academy was rocked by a cheating scandal uncovered after a former battalion chief was charged, and later convicted, of second-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend.

His arrest triggered a separate investigation that led to 16 CalFire employees being fired, demoted or resigning for activities including cheating, drinking on duty, and sharing sexually explicit photographs.

Officials said the latest problem with the examination in November is unrelated. They would not give details, but CalFire Director Ken Pimlott said he would seek disciplinary action "to the fullest extent possible" against two individuals he said compromised the latest exam.

"Their actions undermine the trust the public has placed in us and I will not tolerate these misguided individuals tarnishing the reputation of the men and women in this Department," he said in a statement.

The department retrained employees and set up new safeguards after the academy scandal.

The decision to redo the test unfairly punishes seven CalFire employees who already were promoted to battalion chief, said Mike Lopez, president of the union representing state firefighters.

"They have been told that they are going to lose their job," Lopez said. "There are individuals that I firmly believe are getting caught up in this that have no improprieties suspected of them."

He said the union is looking at legal options to protect those promotions.

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