Safford Mayor releases statement on July 4th fire dept incident

Safford Mayor, Jason Kouts, has released a statement about the incident that occurred at the Safford fire station on July 4th, 2019. The incident involved firefighters who had allegedly been drinking earlier in the day and inappropriate comments that were heard over radio communications. Here’s the statement from the mayor:

Firefighting is an international brotherhood of people, both paid and volunteers, who have dedicated their lives to helping to prevent loss of life and the protection of property; sometimes at great risk to themselves. Worldwide, firefighters place themselves in harm’s way rushing to the aide of total strangers every single day.

Our department is made up of a group of very dedicated volunteers that respond to a variety of calls for assistance in the Safford/Graham County Fire District service area. We have thirty-two (32) volunteers who respond from their own homes to provide the necessary manpower at any time of the day or night. Often, our department must rely on other agencies like, the Thatcher Volunteer Fire Department, the Safford Police Department, Graham County Sheriff Department, and Fire Fighters from the BLM for which we are grateful and appreciative.

I say all this to you, to explain why the unfortunate incident on the 4th of July is being taken so seriously by the City Council.  Acting on the recommendation of the City Manager, following a thorough investigation by the team comprising of the Police Chief, the Human Resource Officer and himself, three members of the fire department are being disciplined.  The Chief will be issued a letter of reprimand for being complacent in allowing firefighters who had been drinking earlier that day to respond to one of the two fire calls that evening. The assistant Fire Chief will be demoted and bared from holding elected office for two years. Firefighter James Holguin will be suspended from active firefighting duties for one month.

Additionally, the Chief, working with the City Manager, will develop a code of conduct for the department that should remove any ambiguity by the firefighters for the minimum expected behavior. We will provide additional leadership training to the leadership of the department among other things. We also instructed the City Manager to initiate a City Code modification redirecting the day-to day operations of the fire department to be supervised by the City Manager’s office.

It is the mission of the Safford City Council to provide a safe and healthy environment for every member of the community we serve, and to honor the long and rich traditions of the Safford Volunteer Fire Department.  We look forward to closing this unfortunate chapter, mending any broken fences with our trusted neighbors and rebuilding the confidence and public trust in our department.