Firefighters angry over firing of chief
By Rhett Wilkinson
FOUNTAIN GREEN—Several Fountain Green firefighters are upset because the city council suspended the Fire Department’s bylaws, fired the fire chief, and installed a new chief who was not a member of the department and does not live in Fountain Green.
One of the firefighters, Kyler Daybell, said he believes Hansen was fired because his department staged an impromptu parade with fire trucks on what would have been Lamb Day.
The parade occurred after the city council cancelled Lamb Day due to COVID-19 and Daybell believes the council considered the parade to be an affront, Daybell told the Sanpete Messenger.
According to Daybell, the Fire Department bylaws are important to the safety to the community. The bylaws did not allow for the hiring of a fire chief who was not a member of the department, Daybell said.
The new chief, Todd Robinson, is originally from New York, according to a recording of Thursday, Aug. 20 Fountain Green City Council meeting. According to voter registration records, he now lives in Moroni.
Another firefighter Jc Slaugh feels the bylaws were “changed … on purpose just so [Robinson] could be fire chief.”
Fired Fire Chief Matt Hansen said, “I do not feel it was needed to go outside the Fountain Green jurisdiction to find a new chief. We have several capable firemen within our department that I feel would have done a tremendous job, so [there] wouldn’t have been a need to suspend the bylaws.”
Members of the fire department are unhappy with Robinson’s appointment because the department had been helping with wildfires, and Robinson does not want the department to fight wildfires anymore, even though it brings money to the department, Daybell told the Messenger.
Fountain Green City Mayor Willard Wood did not return a request for comment.
According to Daybell, some fire fighters are considering resigning.
“We are all upset about this,” firefighter Trevor Ware said. “There were better options within the fire department to replace the chief without having to suspend the bylaws and go outside of the fire jurisdiction to replace the fire chief. I don’t think it was handled appropriately. I think there could have been better means to handle the situation … they did wrong by us all.
“They basically slapped us all in the face, to put it nicely,” Ware said.
Ware said he “may or may not stay on” with the department depending on “if things can be handled peacefully … in the near future.”
Ware said it depends on if Robinson “can come in and not be a dictator.”
The department was “not given much of an option for anything, and it’s frustrating,” Slaugh said.
The termination of Hansen was “kind of a shock,” said Slaugh. “Some guy that we don’t know that wasn’t from Fountain Green was going to be our fire chief.”
“I didn’t know him, so that was kind of surprising that they just didn’t pull somebody from our department already who did live in Fountain Green,” Slaugh said. “…I don’t even know how to put it into words. I was really shocked … and confused.”
Slaugh thought that on one hand, the “changing of the bylaws” is “great … because then more volunteers can come and help.” However, the council “should have let (the department) elect somebody who knew more about the department, who we felt safe and confident with and who we could trust to run our department.”
“Many of the firefighters, as you can understand, are unhappy about the change,” Daybell said. “However, most of our current position is that while we are very upset and think that the city is doing shady if not illegal things with our bylaws, we want to continue to serve our community because we know that the community deserves to be protected.”
The “main reason” many of the firefighters are upset is not that Hansen was fired, but because the city council did not consult the department on a new chief and went directly against the department’s bylaws to do so, Daybell said.
Robinson asked firefighters to let him know at a meeting Tuesday (after press time) whether they were resigning, Slaugh said. That isn’t enough time for many firefighters to make such a decision because they have been out of the area fighting a fire, and the firefighters like to “discuss things with each other first,” Slaugh said.