SAFFORD — Allegations of responding to a fire call while intoxicated have prompted the City of Safford to initiate an investigation into the conduct of the Safford Volunteer Fire Department on July 4.
In a press release issued Friday at 8:35 p.m., the city states the investigation was initiated by an anonymous letter presented to the City Council.
The letter stated that obscene language was used over the radio by members of the department in response to two fire calls late in the evening of July 4.
In addition, the anonymous letter stated there was alcohol present at the fire station and that, according to the letter writer, some firefighters who responded to at least one of the calls appeared to be intoxicated.
A preliminary investigation by the city manager found that radio recordings did reveal the use of profanities and that alcohol was present at the station on July 4.
“Neither of these two behaviors are considered by me or this City Council as acceptable; in fact, they are violation of City policy and expected behavior of City employees,” Safford Mayor Jason Kouts said in the press release.
“I have instructed the city manager to (have) an investigating team of himself, the police chief and the human resources officer complete a full investigation of this incident and bring back to us a report including recommendations of any disciplinary action and training necessary to ensure that this behavior is not repeated in the future,” Kouts continued.
“We want to assure the public that the legacy of exceptional service provided by our Fire Department will continue, and we will repair any damage to public trust caused by this unfortunate incident.”
The release did not detail a deadline for the investigating team to complete its investigation.
In a statement released Saturday at 6:26 p.m., Safford Fire Chief Clark Bingham apologized for the language used.
“I would like to take the opportunity to publicly apologize to the members of the Graham County Sheriff Department for my inappropriate reference to members of the department as ‘County Mounties.’ Upon reflection, I could see how this comment, while used in jest, could be misinterpreted by some members of the department or the public. I will like to assure everyone that no harm or ill will was intended by my reference,” Bingham said.
“To the members of the BLM Forest Service, I also apologize for the lewd and inappropriate comment (hurled) at you during one of the two fire incidents on the Fourth of July. (There) cannot (be a) satisfactory explanation for the comments made by a member of our department. Simply put, it was vulgar and inappropriate, (and) for that I apologize on behalf of the Safford Fire Department. We have enjoyed many years of cooperation and calibration in the vital public service we provide to the community and your ever willingness to step in and help us in time of need has always been appreciated. I can only hope that we can get beyond this unfortunate incident as soon as possible and we can get back to the level of cooperation, assistance and respect we have enjoyed while serving our community.
“I am going to institute a mandatory training series on proper radio protocol for every member of my department, as well as sensitivity training to ensure that behavior in public and private meets the level of professionalism expected of us when responding to an emergency call.
“By now it is common knowledge the City Council has ordered an investigation. I encourage everyone contacted during this process to fully cooperate with the investigating team.”