Fire chief comes under fire from union

Members of Hemet Firefighters Association point finger at Chief Scott

Photo courtesy of Hemet Fire Department
Chief Scott Brown is under fire after a HFFA statement was released to the public claiming the fire department morale is unsatisfactory.

■ Chronicle News Staff

The Hemet Firefighters Association (HFFA) has released survey results claiming that, “More than 90 percent (of their members) indicate the chief prioritizes his own career over Hemet’s emergency response needs.” Chief Scott Brown, meanwhile, has remained mum in the face of this public attack by the union.
According to the press release statement from HFFA, President of HFFA David Prietto said, “working conditions and morale have continued to deteriorate,” in regards to the Hemet Fire Department.
The survey results were released to the public on Aug. 15, but the survey actually was taken almost a year ago. Meanwhile, Brown has yet to comment on these findings. Brown has, however, released multiple statements to the public regarding the department’s recent accomplishments in 2018.
On Aug 26, Brown posted a statement on the Hemet Fire Department Agency page via Nextdoor.com that read, “2018 continues to be a very challenging Fire Season, Departments from across the state and other parts of the US and abroad have stepped up to help in our time of need. Your HFD firefighters have done their part contributing to the following major fires in 2018:
– Cranston Fire, Idyllwild
– Mendocino Fire, Northern California
– Ribbon Fire, Lake Hemet
– Ferguson Fire, Mariposa
– Recycle Fire, San Diego
– Pawnee Fire, Northern California
– Flat Fire, Northern California
– Euclid Fire
– Holy Fire, Orange, Riverside County
“This is not only an extraordinary effort by your Hemet Firefighters, it is testimony to our Statewide Fire Mutual Aid system – neighbor helping neighbor. Your Hemet Firefighters made a difference, so while we were committed on fires across the state, others stayed behind to ensure for the uninterrupted delivery of emergency service response for our city – our mission is you! Thank you for your continued support.”
Part of the HFFA statement referenced a lack of personnel used in supporting the Cranston Fire, in particular. The release claims, “We had firefighters ready to go fight the recent wildfires, but Chief Brown made up excuses and prevented our personnel from deploying… that left residents and property in Idyllwild more at risk.”
Brown’s Aug 26 statement seems to be contradictory listing the Cranston Fire as one HFD contributed to, while he also confirms that some “stayed behind” in order to benefit the city of Hemet. It is unclear at this point how much HFD helped in containing the fire in Idyllwild.
Then on Aug 27, Brown issued this message to the public: “Hemet Fire Department is a full service fire department, each of our five fire stations strategically located in our city are staffed with highly trained personnel, a fire captain, engineer and firefighter paramedic. Strategic efforts continue to place focus on improving our emergency response services – 82 percent of our 911 calls for service are emergency medical related, the balance are a wide variety of call types including structure fires, vehicle accidents, rescues and public assist calls. Our ability to meet these response challenges, now and well into the future is our commitment – Hemet Strong!”
Despite Chief Brown’s encouraging words, there’s still room to wonder why so many reported poorly on the HFFA survey. There has been speculation that the amount of overtime allocated to firefighters is a fueled debate between the chief and union members.
At last Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the former head of the firefighters union, Steve Sandefur addressed the council with complaints that the department’s strike teams are understaffed and therefore unsafe. His comments were countered by a representative of Keep Hemet Safe named Howard Rosenthal who said the business community strongly supports Chief Brown because he is trying to get the department’s costly overtime under control. He asked the Council to issue a strong vote of support for the chief.
Meanwhile, the firefighters union want to blame Brown for their alleged low morale. “HFFA members are frustrated by the Chief’s lack of integrity and poor leadership,” said Prietto in his personal attack on Brown’s character..
In March, Brown was placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation and returned back to work in April with a vote of confidence by City Manager Allen Parker.
The Valley Chronicle attempted to contact Brown to comment on the HFFA statement, but has yet to hear back.

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