GOODLAND Stunned by the resignation of the city's 12 volunteer firefighters, Goodland officials are scrambling to ensure fire protection when the mass departure takes effect March 5.
The firefighters decided to quit as a protest against Fire Chief Scott Gilmer, whose actions they believe have tarnished the department's image, volunteer Stan Duell said Wednesday. During a meeting Tuesday night, Duell said, Gilmer rejected the firefighters' request that he step down.
Duell cited Gilmer's recent 30-day suspension - for reasons that have not been made public - and his prosecution on a charge of trying to steal cigarettes in July from the wreckage of an overturned tractor-trailer. A jury acquitted him of the charge in December.
"The firemen do not feel safe with him as a leader because we feel he hasn't made good judgments," Duell said. "We are in a life-threatening situation every time that alarm goes off, and we have to be able to trust each individual to cover our backs."
He said the incidents have embarrassed the department.
"We're taking questions left and right and are being ridiculed left and right," Duell said.
Goodland City Manager Wayne Hill said Wednesday he was "appalled, shocked" at the firefighters' resignation and expressed support for Gilmer.
He confirmed that Gilmer recently had returned to work after a 30-day suspension, but he wouldn't discuss the reasons. Gilmer couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
While replacements for the 12 volunteers are recruited, Hill said, the northwest Kansas community of about 5,000 people will rely on help from Sherman County rural firefighters and Goodland city employees.