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A third of a volunteer fire department resigns after chief is fired

Onalaska Fire Department Chief Andrew Martin said the issues began when commissioners tried to take over day-to-day operations


By FireRescue1 Staff

ONALASKA, Wash. — A third of a volunteer fire department resigned after the fire chief was abruptly fired.

KING5 reported that commissioners fired Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department Chief Andrew Martin after what he said was a power struggle.

"I wasn't given any heads up. I didn't even know I was the employee under review," Martin said.

Martin said the struggle began when commissioners tried to take over day-to-day operations after a theft was reported.

" We did an investigation into the theft, found unethical behavior, so we took action against that member. That member happened to be one of the commissioner's family members," Martin said.

After hearing of Martin’s termination, 12 firefighters handed in their resignation.

"I resigned to support my chief. We are a team. We train together. We fight together. We respond together," Captain Randy Tobler said.

Commissioner Rich Bainbridge said Martin’s claims are untrue.

"The thing doesn't really work unless you are a team, and we weren't getting teamwork," Bainbridge said. "We have been working on several issues for months and not seeing any progress, and we just thought that we had to make the move."

Tobler said the response time will increase with the reduction in firefighters.

"Now that we have a third less, they are looking at 30 minutes on scene," Tobler said.

Bainbridge said the response time will not change.

"I don't think there is going to be any change to that," he said. "We still have excellent volunteers in our own district, and they know it might mean more work for them."

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