A fire board recall election set for November has divided residents in the tiny pine-studded community of Whispering Pines into two warring camps.
On one side is Whispering Pines Fire Chief Chris Bleak, fire board member Harold Coleman, who is being recalled, and others.
The opposing faction is headed by four former Whispering Pines fire chiefs, including Rudolph Arellano.
The conflict that splits the two groups differs depending on which side you talk to.
Bleak and Coleman say the issue revolves around the recall faction's opposition to an ongoing effort to expand the fire district to include the Verde Glen and Rim Trails subdivisions.
Arellano said that's not true; the problem is Coleman himself.
"He is abusive to anyone who questions his views ... every discussion with him ends in a confrontation," Arellano said. "He is neither professional nor competent."
Arellano does say, however, that he and the other recall supporters don't want to expand the fire district as quickly as others do.
"(Coleman) is trying to ram this (expansion) down our throats," he said.
Bleak counters by saying that Coleman is looking out for the best interests of the residents of the fire district by listening to expansion offers that could allow the department to update itself.
The conflict between the two groups peaked in late June when the Arellano-led group filed petitions with the Gila County Board of Supervisors demanding that the recall issue be placed on the Nov. 7 ballot.
According to Gila County Elections Director Dixie Mundy, the petitions were found to contain the minimum number of 10 valid signatures and therefore, at the next election, Coleman's name will be placed on the ballot.
It's the recall group's responsibility to find a candidate to oppose Coleman.
If that candidate receives more votes than Coleman, that person will assume the position on the fire board, and Coleman will be ousted even though his term doesn't expire until 2002, Mundy said.
Arellano says a candidate to oppose Coleman is under consideration, but until the decision is final, he is not prepared to announce that person's identity.
Fire board candidates have until 5 p.m. Aug. 9 to file nomination petitions.
Until the election, Coleman said there is not much he can do but await the results and find out if he will be retained as a member of the board.
While both sides continue to bicker, they share one common point of agreement the issue has sharply divided the community.
"It's very emotional," Bleak said.
Arellano agrees, saying, "These are difficult times in the fire district."