CALUMET TOWNSHIP | A Lake Ridge firefighter, who walked more than four miles Tuesday night in full gear from a fire scene back to the station, has been suspended pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
“I am currently suspended pending the outcome of a fact-finding investigation, which is being conducted by Assistant Chief Mike Redd regarding the incident at the Griffith fire,” said Paul Channell, a three-year veteran of the department. “In terms of that, at this moment, that is all that I can officially comment on.”
Channell, who has a past line-of-duty injury, confirmed he did walk from the scene of a brush fire near Cline Avenue and Avenue H to the fire station in the 3500 block of West 45th Avenue.
Lake Ridge Fire Chief Pat Booth said at this point the incident is simply an internal employee issue about people causing problems within the department.
“It is an issue with another firefighter at a fire last night,” Booth said. “He made a decision upon his own to do something and it is under investigation by the department.”
Booth said after “storming off,” the angered firefighter called fellow firefighter Jeffry Tucker, who wasn’t at the scene, and got him involved.
“Paul called me and said he was asked to leave the scene and he had to walk, nobody could give him a ride on the orders of the chief, I was told,” Tucker said. “That is absolutely ridiculous.”
Tucker said every member of that Fire Department and their loved ones rely on the chief to make sure they come home safely.
“By making him (Channell) walk home, he (Booth) failed every single one of those people,” Tucker said.
Tucker, a six-year department veteran, said he was told by Channell the walk was 4.7 miles long.
“He was facing possible dehydration and blisters on his feet,” Tucker said.
“The chief is responsible for his men on the department, the way they act, the way they present themselves.”
Tucker said Channell called him saying basically he felt helpless and asked what to do but turned down Tucker’s offer of a ride.
“He said, 'I was told to walk, and I will walk,'” Tucker said.
Booth said he doesn’t put much credence in Tucker’s criticism as Tucker keeps quitting the volunteer department and then returning and only has been to two fire scenes in the past seven months.
“It is always my concern for the safety and welfare for the members of my department,” Booth said. “This member took it upon himself to take the action he took.”