QUIT OR BE FIRED: Firefighters union calls for Pahrump chief to resign
Members of Pahrump Valley Firefighters IAFF Local 4068 are calling for Pahrump Valley Fire Rescue Chief Scott Lewis to resign — or face being fired — citing a 56-point list of health, safety and mismanagement concerns drafted by local union members. The union has now expressed two votes of “no confidence” in their leader.
The local firefighters union is calling for Pahrump Valley Fire & Rescue Chief Scott Lewis to resign — or face removal from his position — citing a 56-point list of health, safety and mismanagement concerns co-written by the union.
Members of Pahrump Valley Firefighters IAFF Local 4068 have expressed two votes of “no confidence” in Lewis since Feb. 6, with the most recent vote coming Monday when 82 percent of union members who cast ballots indicated that Lewis wasn’t fit to hold his job, according to reports from union representatives.
“…We are declaring a state of emergency within Pahrump Valley Fire Rescue and no confidence in Fire Chief Scott Lewis for the second time,” Local 4068 Union President Justin Snow wrote in an email sent early Tuesday morning to media and county officials. “[The union] respectfully requests a letter of resignation from Fire Chief Scott Lewis or for the town & county manager and Board of County Commissioners to remove him from his position immediately.”
Union members say they will censor Lewis during several upcoming industry conventions, and signaled they are done negotiating the merits of his more than 20-year tenure with the department.
“It is not our desire nor our intent to initiate a back-and-forth in a public space,” Snow said, adding that union officials wouldn’t be available for interviews or additional comments.
Chief Lewis told the Pahrump Valley Times that he’s aware of the union’s claims, but said he is “not commenting at this time.”
Tim Sutton, Pahrump’s town manager, issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon saying he was aware of the union’s vote. He called it an “unfortunate, retaliatory move” that he says was spurred by a few union leaders who were disgruntled after being “disciplined for endangering the public and passed over for a captain promotion.”
“Several of the concerns raised during the vote are legitimate,” Sutton acknowledged in his statement. “However, these are more properly addressed during the collective bargaining process.
“The town recognizes the long hours our first responders put in and the dangerous, even life-threatening situations they encounter on a daily basis,” Sutton said. “The town is committed to addressing issues raised by the union in the appropriate forums with the resources available.”
‘It was always burning’
The local firefighters union was established in September 2000, a little more than a year after Pahrump Valley Fire & Rescue hired its first paid firefighter.
Pahrump hired Chief Lewis in 2002, and he has served with the department since then.
Union members took their first vote of no confidence against Lewis more than a decade ago, when they raised concerns about his leadership in September 2012 and asked the former town manager and other top officials to consider removing him as chief.
But the union’s warnings were ignored for years, members claim, and at least seven current members who were employed in 2012 say that “many of the concerns regarding health, safety and mismanagement of Pahrump Valley Fire Rescue that were listed then remain an ongoing issue to this date.”
In the past decade, Pahrump’s firefighters have suffered some of the highest turnover and vacancy rates in the state under the leadership of Lewis, the union claims.
“Despite our best efforts over the past decade to exhaust all options, excluding legal action, we have been unable to correct the ongoing issues affecting public safety, firefighter safety, the treatment of firefighters and poor morale in Pahrump Valley Fire Rescue,” the union members wrote in their appeal to elected officials to find a replacement for Lewis. “It will be no easy task to restore the fire department from its current condition and reputation.”
But Sutton said that IAFF members and town officials have a history of “productive collective bargaining.”
“[We] have successfully ratified several collective agreements since the last vote of no confidence… To claim that no positive changes have occurred with PVFRS in the interim is disingenuous and diminishes the hard bargaining work done by Chief Lewis, town management, and, ironically, the union’s own bargaining representatives,” Sutton said.
Contact Editor Brent Schanding at firstname.lastname@example.org
Selwyn Harris contributed to this report.
Health, safety and mismanagement concerns of firefighters union
Pahrump Valley Firefighters IAFF Local 4068 issued this 56-point list of health, safety and mismanagement concerns. The union is asking Pahrump Valley Fire & Rescue Chief Scott Lewis to resign or face removal of his post from county officials. The union has expressed two votes of “no confidence” in Lewis since February.
■ Inadequate staffing to perform operations safely/effectively
■ Inadequate staffing levels for all structure fires
■ Highest firefighter turnover rate per capita in Nevada
■ Highest firefighter vacancy rate per capita in Nevada
■ Firefighter recruiting, hiring and retention issues
■ No firefighter minimum staffing policy in writing
■ No firefighter mandatory policy in writing
■ Dangerous span of control (1 captain to 11 firefighters)
■ New fire station to open without any firefighters to staff it or will have to take away from current stations and resources
■ Does not utilize an acting captain when needed
■ Micromanages the fire department from home outside of his scheduled business hours (assigns unavailable resources)
■ Brings his wife and or daughter with him in his command vehicle to dispatched fire/EMS emergencies
■ No engineers (needed for operating/maintaining apparatus)
■ No training captain (inconsistent training or lack of)
■ No life safety inspector captain (years behind on inspections)
■ No battalion chiefs (needed to oversee fire stations/captains)
■ No assistant fire chief (removed to become irreplaceable)
■ No swift water/flood rescue/technical rescue/hazmat teams
■ No IFT (Vegas transfers) contract with DVH (Pahrump hospital)
■ No IFT (Vegas transfers) safeguards in writing for firefighter fatigue and sleep deprivation
■ Shutting down entire fire stations for IFTs
■ Prioritizing IFTs (Vegas transfers) over local fire/EMS
■ Short-staffing local fire/EMS by 50% for ifts by sending two of our four ambulances out of town to Vegas at a time
■ Short-staffing local fire/EMS for on-duty physicals
■ Short-staffing local fire/EMS for private events
■ Short-staffing local fire/EMS for mutual aid/automatic aid
■ Short-staffing local fire/EMS while providing free services to private entities
■ Overextending resources for mutual aid/automatic aid
■ Station 1 firefighters having to sleep in training classroom due to lack of bedrooms (administration using two rooms)
Official document 4
■ Hoarding problems (outdated/out of service equipment)
■ More in-service apparatus than on-duty firefighters
■ Prioritizes purchasing apparatus he wants over purchasing the equipment and apparatus that PVFR needs
■ PVFR ambulance fleet in disrepair while neighboring agencies are capable of obtaining new ambulances annually as needed
■ PVFR ambulances were out of pain medications for 3 months while neighboring agencies were able to maintain and secure
■ Chooses to not stock reserve ambulances (which are frequently used) to state of Nevada EMS requirements
■ Outdated EMS protocols from 2014 with missing sections
■ Fails to designate safety officer at large scale fire/ems
■ Does not establish a rehab station or have vital signs checked during working structure fires
■ Bare minimum firefighter physical; refuses procedures which are considered industrial standards in Nevada
■ Refuses to budget/purchase/maintain fitness and workout equipment (firefighters and union have to donate/purchase)
■ Harasses firefighters for using earned benefits/other leaves (annual leave, comp time, sick leave, FMLA, maternity/paternity leave, bereavement leave and Workers Comp)
■ Failed to internally manage the Covid-19 pandemic
■ Fails to adopt National Fire Protection Association standards
■ Fails to adopt most of the industrial standards in Nevada
■ No second set of turnouts (increases cancer risk)
■ No plymovents in all apparatus bays (increases cancer risk)
■ Falsified information in Pahrump Life magazine article
■ Falsified data in the two previous ISO rating reports
■ Falsifies portions of the volunteer program
■ Ignored multiple safety committee recommendations
■ Ignored recommendations of IAFFGeographic Information System Emergency Response Capabilities Analysis
■ Violates the IAFC fire service professional code of ethics
■ Lost his gun at fire station (found in back of pickup truck bed)
■ Secondary employment interferes with his primary employment as fire chief of PVFR
■ Retaliates against firefighters who challenge/disappoint him
■ All unaddressed health, safety and mismanagement concerns from the 1st vote of no confidence in Fire Chief Scott Lewis