Pine-Strawberry Fire Department Chief William Dekker was placed on paid administrative leave for 30 days, as a result of disorderly conduct charges filed against him by the Gila County Sheriff's Office.
The Pine-Strawberry Fire Board announced the punishment at a special meeting Tuesday night. The leave began immediately. Captain Lynn Larned of the PSFD will act as interim chief in Dekker's absence.
The disorderly conduct charges against Dekker came after an incident on May 27 which Gila County Sheriff's deputies responded to and subsequently called on the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department for assistance.
Sheriff's deputies responded to an illegal campfire started by Vincent R. Leedy and Marna S. Petersen near milepost 266 along Highway 87 in Pine.
The PSFD was called to assist with putting out the fire.
According to the sheriff's office report of the incident, Dekker arrived on scene after the PSFD began extinguishing the fire and began verbally harassing Leedy and Petersen.
Deputies repeatedly asked Dekker to leave the scene before he obliged, according to reports.
Dekker's antagonizing actions caused Leedy to become hostile and made it more difficult for sheriff's officers to handle the scene, according to Sgt. Brian Havey's report of the incident.
Dekker refused to comment on the incident or subsequent punishment by the fire board.
PSFB chairperson Rose Harper said the board will meet with Dekker 30 days after his suspension began, to "reevaluate the situation."
"Nobody in our department is above punishment, if it's called for," Harper said. "Any one of them at any time can make a mistake. But we have an obligation to the people."
Officers filed charges against Leedy and Petersen for having a campfire in a restricted area. Petersen was also charged with criminal littering.