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Follow-up: Board weighs options after allegations against fire chief

By Andrea Olson, KECI Reporter, aolson@keci.com
Published On: Mar 18 2014 11:16:28 PM MDT
Board weighs options after allegations against fire chief
MISSOULA, Mont. -

The chairman of the Florence Fire Department's Board of Trustees tells us the board is considering possible disciplinary action after an investigation shows the fire chief sent unqualified firefighters to wildland fires in 2012 and 2013.

We got a copy of that investigation report. It was done by a private company from the Flathead Valley.

Maverick Management Solutions concluded it found, "credible evidence" that not only were unqualified firefighters dispatched, but also that Fire Chief Charlie Lambson told state officials the firefighters were qualified and had what's known as red cards. A red card shows the firefighter can perform certain physical activities critical to their job.

We called the fire chief several times. He referred us to his attorney. The attorney did not return two calls Tuesday.

NBC Montana has asked the chief's supporters to talk on camera, but they have declined.

To clarify, this investigation is closed and a Florence Fire Board meeting covered Monday night was designed to share the results.

Chairman of the Florence Fire District Board of Trustees Keith O'Brien told us the board will use the report to take possible disciplinary action against Lambson. But he says he's not sure what, if anything, that will be.

O'Brien told us he's there to protect the best interest of the firefighters and taxpayers.

Since we first reported this story, our Facebook page has been filled with comments from supporters of Lambson. We tried repeatedly to get several to go on camera. None would.

Fire Department member Rich Prussen told us over the phone he does not agree with the report's findings.

Several people expressed on our Facebook page that they don't agree with the report's findings, saying the chief is a nice man and leader, and they argue that the accusations are false.

NBC Montana talked to all of the members of the Board of Trustees. Some of the board members we talked to did not agree with the conclusions and believe the allegations against the chief have been played up more than necessary. 

One board member tells us that there are multiple discrepancies in the investigation and the concerns against Lambson have prompted the DNRC to revisit its wording on training requirements. 

We'll keep in touch with the board and let you know if it does pursue disciplinary action.