The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 11, 2012

Diamond Fire District almost back to full staff after walkout

By Roger McKinney

DIAMOND, Mo. — Volunteer firefighters with the Diamond Area Fire Protection District were back to making fire runs and going out on medical calls this week.

A dispute between firefighters and the district’s board of directors resulted in most firefighters walking out last Tuesday. The fire chief, Gerald Ezell, resigned.

They were back responding to emergency calls Friday, minus Ezell.

Fire Capt. Brian Artherton said most firefighters walked out after confronting the board about a member they accused of taking gasoline belonging to the district without authorization. Artherton said firefighters were upset that the board declined to discipline the accused man.

Artherton said 12 firefighters walked out and the fire chief resigned in protest. He said other fire departments were contacted to cover the fire district’s territory and the city of Diamond, which has a contract with the fire district.

He said that at a community meeting last Thursday, the accused firefighter resigned. The firefighters, except the chief, returned to responding to calls Friday.

“The best thing that could happen is for him to return to the department,” Artherton said of Ezell. “We’re currently without a chief.”

Joe Chaney, chairman of the fire district board, on Thursday said surveillance video of the alleged incident didn’t clearly show a theft of gasoline, so he didn’t want the board to take action against the accused firefighter. He said he stands by the decision.

“I’m the lucky guy who made that call,” he said.

As for the fire chief, Chaney said he knew the chief was considering returning, but he didn’t know if he had made a decision.

Chaney said he considers the issues resolved.

Diamond Mayor Shane Hunter said he’s pleased that the dispute seems to be resolved and that the firefighters are back on the job.

“It’s a big burden off the city,” he said.

Mutual aid

Diamond Mayor Shane Hunter said neighboring fire departments were ready to respond to any fires or medical calls during the walkout. “The city was never left unprotected,” he said.