North Las Vegas’ fire chief placed on leave

The North Las Vegas Fire Department, short-staffed and suffering temporary closures of some fire stations over budget issues, is now without a chief or a deputy chief.

City Manager Tim Hacker said Friday that he had placed Fire Chief Al Gillespie on administrative leave pending further investigation into an unspecified training accident in January for which the North Las Vegas Fire Department was responsible.

“It’s following proper protocol,” Hacker said.

Two weeks ago, Deputy Chief Kevin Brame was laid off.

Assistant Chief Jeff Buchanan has been named acting chief.

The city’s firefighters union said Hacker’s explanation for Gillespie’s leave does not ring true.

“They’re making a convenient excuse up,” said Jeff Hurley, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 1607, which represents the city’s firefighters.

He said Gillespie, who did not return messages seeking comment Friday, would not endorse “dangerous” budget cuts that Hacker sought.

Hacker flatly denied that budget cuts had anything to do with Gillespie’s leave.

The city administration and the firefighters union have been at odds recently over budget-cutting moves, including the suspension of pay increases and, beginning July 1, the virtual elimination of overtime.

Firefighters say the overtime policy, in particular, is dangerous because it is leading to the temporary closure of some fire stations.

“Some stations are closed every single day,” Hurley said.

Stations are closed on a rotating basis if there are not enough firefighters on duty to staff them. Hurley said there are barely enough firefighters in the department to operate all the equipment in all eight stations. If just a few people are out sick, on vacation or otherwise unable to work, stations or apparatus are shut down.

Brame, the former deputy chief, said he was notified June 28 that he was being laid off. He said the reason he was given was a “reduction in force,” though he is suspicious.

He said the move came just weeks after he refused to endorse Hacker’s proposed budget-cutting moves to the City Council.

“Do you believe in coincidence?” he said.

Hacker said Brame’s layoff was part of a set of budget-cutting measures recommended by Gillespie.

But Brame said he was quite vocal about his opposition to the cuts. He said he opposed the cuts because they are unsafe. He called them “Draconian.”

“These are dangerous staffing levels for the community,” he said, “as well as for the firefighters.”

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.

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