Daily Camera (Boulder)

Chief could be­come at-will em­ployee

- By Brook­lyn Dance Fires · Disasters · Netherlands · California · Facebook · Alpine (former settlement), California

Ned­er­land Fire Pro­tec­tion District Chief Rick Dirr could be­come an at-will em­ployee af­ter Thurs­day’s al­most five-hour board meet­ing to dis­cuss the fate of his em­ploy­ment.

The board voted to look into ter­mi­nat­ing Dirr’s con­tract to al­low him to be­come an atwill em­ployee while main­tain­ing the same du­ties. Board mem­bers said Dirr’s con­tract has been the same for al­most 20 years and is out­dated. Dirr agreed to the pro­posed con­tract ter­mi­na­tion. The board will next meet with an at­tor­ney to draft the de­tails.

Board mem­bers, fire­fight­ers and com­mu­nity mem­bers at the meet­ing ex­pressed their opin­ions about Dirr’s be­hav­ior and about the Ned­er­land Fire Pro­tec­tion District as a whole. Some ex­pressed re­spect for Dirr and his ten­ure. One fire­fighter phoned in from an as­sign­ment in Cal­i­for­nia to state he could not con­tinue with Ned­er­land Fire if Dirr re­mained chief.

Oth­ers ac­cused some board mem­bers of hav­ing a hid­den agenda in try­ing to oust Dirr. Many ques­tioned why the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was not com­pleted by a third party.

Dirr was placed on leave Aug. 24 af­ter the board’s spe­cial meet­ing Aug. 19 as the district in­ves­ti­gated an al­leged “fail­ure to fol­low rec

og­nized pro­to­cols that lead to a po­ten­tially haz­ardous sit­u­a­tion,” ac­cord­ing to a Face­book post.

The haz­ardous sit­u­a­tion that led to Dirr’s leave was not pub­licly known un­til Thurs­day’s meet­ing. Board mem­bers dis­cussed Dirr’s role in the July 3 home ex­plo­sion in the 200 block of Alpine Drive and ac­cused him of fail­ing to fol­low in­ci­dent com­mand.

Dirr joined the fire depart­ment in 1990 and served as a vol­un­teer for 10 years be­fore be­com­ing the first com­pen­sated fire chief in 1999, the fire depart­ment’s web­site states.

Dirr penned a pub­lic apology Mon­day, and also read the apology at the board meet­ing.

“As re­gards to July 3rd, my fail­ure to check in with in­ci­dent com­mand was strictly my de­ci­sion, reck­less and in­sult­ing at best,” the apology states. “Al­though I have nu­mer­ous ex­cuses for end­ing up at this point, I be­lieve that the deeper ul­ti­mate cause was ar­ro­gance and fail­ure to show re­spect for the In­ci­dent Com­mand Sys­tem, and the mem­bers and of­fi­cers of the depart­ment.”

Board mem­bers and Dirr’s apology both ref­er­enced an­other al­le­ga­tion of mis­con­duct against Dirr, say­ing he pre­vi­ously brought his daugh­ter to an ac­tive fire.

“Sim­i­larly for the es­caped fire on West Mag­no­lia … where I first failed to check in with com­mand, and brought my daugh­ter to ob­serve the fire­fight­ing ac­tiv­ity,” Dirr stated in the apology. “My in­ten­tion was not to bur­den the (in­ci­dent com­mand) and op­er­a­tions with con­cern for my ac­tiv­i­ties and what I at the time felt was the su­per­vi­sion of a ju­nior fire­fighter.”

The board is next sched­uled to meet Wed­nes­day.

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