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More Bridger Canyon Fire Fighters could resign Wednesday

By Eric Turcio, Reporter, eturcio@ktvm.com
Published On: May 21 2013 10:48:17 PM MDT
Updated On: May 21 2013 11:24:12 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Bridger Canyon firefighters tell NBC Montana the fire department's board of trustees has created a hostile work environment. Meanwhile, board members tell us they have done everything possible to address concerns, but firefighters failed to bring specific issues to the table.

It appears the conflict is now coming to a head with possible implications for public safety, as we head into Montana's fire season.

At a property owners' meeting Tuesday, Bridger Canyon resident Cathy Anderson told NBC Montana she is sad to see the Bridger Canyon firefighters resign. Anderson says the fire department's board of trustees has tried hard to work with them.

"They don't seem willing to mediate and settle it and unfortunately last night they've decided to quit," said Anderson.

Bridger Canyon firefighters told us their relationship with the board of trustees has disintegrated, saying they are unfair and not easy to deal with.

"We've experienced verbal abuse. There's been put-downs," said Don Daniels.

Daniels is the assistant chief until tomorrow night, when he'll turn in his pager. Daniels told us the board of trustees has lied to firefighters and verbally harassed them.

"We've seen firefighters who are brave and courageous enough to stand up and speak for what they believe in and they've been harassed at the meeting," said Daniels.

Newly elected trustee Dennis Guentzel is now the temporary acting fire chief. In an open letter, the firefighters say they respect Guentzel and appreciate his efforts to problem solve.

"I came into -- what you might say -- a hornet's nest of activity and animosity both between the board and some of the firefighters. So to pinpoint a certain issue, no I can't. I can't say I'm aware of it," said Guentzel.

Property owners told NBC Montana they are confident they will find more firefighters to help out.

We tried to talk with several other board members at Tuesday night's meeting,  but they declined to speak with us.

NBC Montana will be following the latest developments on this breaking story.