A large number of firefighters attended the Sept. 25 regular meeting of the Williams City Council in order to voice their discontent over a recent disciplinary action taken against two members of the Williams Volunteer Fire Department.
According to reports, the action was taken due to a recent physical altercation between two firefighters that occurred at one of the area fire stations this summer. WVFD officials, meanwhile, took offense to the disciplinary action, stating that firefighters are not subject to city employee rules and actions. Council members Bill Miller, Don Dent, Kevin Young and Frank McNelly unanimously agreed to re-affirm the volunteer status of the department during the public meeting. Council members Andrew Hamby and James Wurgler were not present for the Sept. 25 meeting.
By re-affirming their volunteer status, any disciplinary action taken by the council toward the two firefighters would be rescinded as well. According to WVFD Chief Jeff Dent, the son of Vice Mayor Don Dent, the fire department has their own rules and regulations in place when it comes to disciplinary action against members of the fire department.
"The event, involving two firemen, is regrettable. However, these two individuals were not considered on duty from the Fire Department's standpoint. We believe that the situation was between two individuals and not two city employees," said Fire Chief Dent in a prepared statement that he read to council members during the meeting. "We consider ourselves to be on duty during our business meetings, practice, training events, special events, as well as responding to emergencies."
Dent went on to say that incidents involving firefighters have been handled internally within the department by the fire chief in charge, as it has been for the last 80 years.
"We do feel that we represent the city and we feel that, for the most part, we do a pretty good job of that," Dent said.
Council members also questioned the long reaching ramifications of such a decision should they let the disciplinary action stand, as it would encompass not only members of the WVFD, but volunteers for the chamber of commerce and other parts of the city as well, all of whom are not currently treated as employees. Firefighters with the department currently receive a stipend and workman's comp through the city, but are not technically considered to be city employees.