Volunteer firefighters cut loose by county

By Chelle Delaney: QCS Staff

Seven volunteer firefighters from Rural I station, including its station chief, received letters from the Quay County interim manager stating their services were “no longer needed or desired,” according to one of the firefighters who received a letter.
The letter from Interim County Manager Wayne Cunningham also stated, “your continued association with Rural I may be disruptive and counterproductive to the safe and efficient operation of this district volunteer fire department.
“Please return all department issued equipment and clothing to Donald Adams or Wayne Cunningham at the Quay County Managers Office within the next ten days. Do not return them to the Rural I Station.”
Rural I is on El Camino Real de Coronado.
Dismissal of the firefighters does not mean District I is without fire protection, said Quay County Fire Marshal Donald Adams. “Rural 1 has a new chief, and five or six firefighters on the rolls. The new chief will also be recruiting. We’re on top of it.”
Brad Griggs had been chief of the rural station until he received a demotion letter last week. Griggs was demoted to volunteer status before he and six other volunteers from the station received letters Monday afternoon following the County Commission meeting, Griggs said.
The others are all relatives of Griggs, except for one, and were volunteer firefighters at the station, Griggs said.
A simmering brouhaha over the management of the Rural I station came to a head at Monday’s Commission meeting with six of the soon-to-be dismissed firefighters at the meeting.
Lane Bradley, also a volunteer firefighter, acted as spokesman for the six.
Bradley said the firefighters would like to have selected their own chief instead of the county appointing one for them.
Mark Preciado was named new chief for the station.
Bradley told the commissioners that those in the department were aware of a few of the county’s concerns about the station but, until recently, they were not aware of the extent of the county’s concerns.
While members of the station had attended training, Adams said the firefighters had not had training in fighting structural fires.
Quay County Commission Chairman Franklin McCasland also said the station had 23 fuel fill-ups with the county credit card, totaling about $1,000, but the station had only been on six calls during the month of September.
On Tuesday, Griggs said there wasn’t anything on the credit card “that wasn’t related to the fire department.”
At the Commission meeting, McCasland said there were instances when the trucks did not have any water, bills were not being submitted for payment, fire trucks were not being maintained or failed to be put on a repair list, the station was in disarray and “the list just goes on and on.”
McCasland and Adams said repeated requests to Griggs by mail and in person had not brought about any changes in the station’s cleanliness and preparedness.
Commissioners also said they were concerned the state may take action against the county and the station.
Commissioner Robert Lopez told Bradley that as a firefighter he should have known that equipment was not being maintained and that the station was not being managed properly.
Commissioner Bill Curry said, “all that equipment represented a lot of money, quite an investment and we took an oath to protect the equipment.”
Bradley said, “It was an extremely busy fire season,” and that after fighting so many fires that it was difficult to get back to the station to clean up.
McCasland said the county was responsible for protecting life and property. “I’m going to stand behind the fire marshal.”
Later after the meeting Bradley said the group did think there were aspects about the station’s management that could and should be improved. “But you can’t fix things overnight.”
Bradley also said, “They are holding us to a higher standard than they do others.”
“The way we feel is that a lot was inherited,” from prior station management.
Griggs and Bradley said they and the group plan to talk with the state fire marshal to learn if they have any recourse. He also said the group was going to research the Commission’s action regarding its station’s bylaws.
The volunteer firefighters’ “performance at fighting fires was as good as anybody’s,” Adams said.
“Their weak points,” Adams said, “were keeping up with the paperwork, getting the reports in and keeping up the station.”