Ramifications of High-Profile Havre Fire Department Personnel Changes Remain Unclear

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HAVRE, Mont. (NMB) – With Havre Fire Chief Mel Paulson retiring this week and Assistant Chief Nate Courtnage stepping down from his position as of Monday, the Havre Fire Department is suddenly in need of new leadership.

Mayor Doug Kaercher has yet to respond to requests for comment, but Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator and Fire Warden Amanda Frickel says she’s been told that Police Chief Gabe Matosich will be in charge of the Department for now.

Early Thursday afternoon, Cody McLain, Vice-President of the local 601 Firefighters Union, told New Media Broadcasters that he has yet to hear of any official word regarding future leadership of the Department.

“We don’t have a clue, either,” said McLain in a brief phone conversation. “We’re just kind of waiting to see what’s going on. We haven’t gotten official word from anybody about anything.”

Any permanent replacement as Fire Chief would have to be appointed by the Mayor and approved by the City Council.

“The city of Havre lost more than a Fire Chief,” Frickel said in a phone conversation. “They lost a leader and they lost a man who actually cared about this community and always put it first.”

Frickel says Matosich is more than qualified as a Police Chief, but doesn’t have credentials to be in charge of a Fire Department.

Matosich did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’m just concerned that we have a fully staffed department and we’re Chief-less,” said Frickel.

Frickel says she is concerned about parts of the contract for fire suppression services in Rural Fire 1 being breached due to this staffing shakeup.

However, Rural Fire 1 District Chair Steven Jamruszka told New Media Broadcasters Thursday morning that the contract is still good as of now, although he is still assessing the ramifications.

He says it is crucial services continue to be provided to the District and that he would like to have a sit-down with the Mayor after the 4th of July to discuss things further.

The change in leadership comes after a scathing report was released at a recent City Council meeting alleging Fire Department employees were being exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos and lead.

1 Comment

  1. Historically, an assistant fire chief would be asked to step into the chief role as a sign of respect. It seems like this mayor is holding a grudge and trying to clean house. Unfortunately, reckless actions by a mayor that is only thinking about his political future is bad policy for the community.

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