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  • Last modified 107 days ago (April 5, 2018)

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Responders hope to bury hatchet

Fire chief weighs in on conflict with EMS crew at station

Staff writer

Peabody Fire Department and Peabody ambulance crew members will meet this evening at the fire station in an effort to clear the air after conflicts between the two entities has created tension.

“This started with something very minor,” fire chief Mark Penner said. “But it needs to be talked out.”

According to Penner, there have been disagreements between the units in the past, but the problems came to a head when an ambulance crew member began using the fire station as home base to sleep while waiting on calls.

“We just came in one day and there was a bed roll on the floor,” he said.

There have been several instances where general housekeeping standards weren’t being met, Penner said, but decided it was time to address the situation when TV remotes used for training purposes were compromised.

“We came in another day and there were remotes laying around without the batteries in them or covers on,” he said.

“It’s my job as fire chief to make sure that our equipment doesn’t walk off, so I thought I handled it by putting them in a locked file cabinet.”

This increased the animosity, Penner said.

“We’ve had stuff like this happen in the past and everyone has just kind of ignored it until it blew up,” he said.

Penner said his greatest concern is how the conflict, which was limited to only a few EMS personnel he said, has spilled out into the community.

“We’re volunteers and have jobs during the day,” he said. “We don’t have time or feel it necessary to sit at coffee in the morning and trash the other department like they have us.”

Penner said that suggestions he’s heard that firefighters want local ambulance service terminated are false.

“People saying we want to get rid of the EMS is ridiculous,” he said. “The fire suppression business we’re in is very dangerous, and we’re not spring chickens anymore,” he said. “We need them.”

He also wants those serving on the fire board to get the whole story, and not what might be being said out in the community, he said.

Penner hopes the meeting will give everyone an opportunity to voice their side and resolve issues.

According to Penner, he has voiced his concerns to Mayor Larry Larsen, an EMS crew member, who is also liaison for the Peabody Fourth Fire District, and Ed Debesis, Marion County EMS Director.

“I hope clarity comes out of this meeting,” he said. “I’ve told Ed in the past that we want to get along better with EMS.”

Phone messages requesting comments from Larsen and Debesis were not returned by press time.

Last modified April 5, 2018

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