Embattled Pine Fire Chief Reinstated

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After a 30-day leave from his post as chief of the Pine Strawberry Fire Department for disorderly conduct, William Dekker was reinstated, effective today, Friday.

The Pine Strawberry Fire board voted 4-1 at a special meeting Wednesday night to reinstate Dekker, with stipulations including probation and a reduction of working hours.

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William Dekker

Board member Forrest McCoy cast the dissenting vote.

Board chair Rose Harper said Dekker's actions during his suspension proved to the board that he was committed to taking better care of himself and performing better at his job.

One of the major concerns Dekker addressed during his time away from the department, Harper said, was the number of hours he was working each week.

Harper said Dekker was simply "doing too much" and that he was mentally and physically drained, which resulted in poor decisions on his part.

Dekker said that, in three years as chief of the Pine Strawberry Fire Departmert, he has only taken one week of vacation.

"Basically, I was working seven days a week," he said.

Harper said, for the next year, Dekker will be restricted from working long hours and will be on a 40-hour-a-week regimen.

"He does not have to be there on every call," she said. "(The board) has encouraged him to get out of town on his time off."

Dekker said he was going to "re-prioritize some things," in an effort to do a better job.

"(The board's decision) means that we can put this unfortunate incident behind us and move forward like we've been doing for the last three years," he said.

Dekker's actions in an incident over Memorial Day weekend resulted in disorderly conduct charges being filed against him by the Gila County Sheriff's Office. He was sentenced on Tuesday by Judge Dorothy Little and received a $100 fine and 20 hours of nonprofit community service, according to a clerk at the Payson Justice Court.

Harper said she is hopeful of Dekker's performance, now that he has "addressed some issues."

"If (the board) hadn't had confidence that he would be a better person, we wouldn't have reinstated him," she said.

Captain Lynn Larned, who had been acting as interim chief in Dekker's absence, will go back to captain's duties, Harper said.

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