Florence Fire Department Investigated for Alleged Criminal Activ - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Florence Fire Department Investigated for Alleged Criminal Activity

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FLORENCE -

The Florence Volunteer Fire Department Board of Trustees launched a private investigation into alleged illegal and unethical activity within the department.

In February, a former firefighter accused the chief of dispatching unqualified firefighters to wildfires and more than a dozen other illegal acts.

The results show there is evidence the chief sent unqualified men and women to fight wildfires, but they also debunked other allegations.

And, current members of the department said many of the accusations against the chief are unsupported by facts, and only meant to smear his reputation.

In the February email sent to media outlets in Missoula and Ravalli County, former firefighter Jason Sorlien said the Florence Fire Department has been plagued by frequent immoral, unethical and illegal activity for years.

Sorlien accuses Chief Charlie Lambson and other members of the fire district of witness tampering, bullying, sexual misconduct and nine other items.

This led the Board of Trustees to hire private investigator Stephanie Breck of Columbia Falls to determine the validity of some of the allegations.

Breck determined there's credible evidence Chief Lambson dispatched employees who had not completed required DNRC courses nor passed the required physical test, known as the "pack test."

The results show of the nine firefighters in question, four were not qualified, three were qualified and two refused or were unable to be interviewed.

However, current firefighter, Rich Prussen, said under state regulations, a fire chief may also certify his employees have equivalent knowledge and skills to fight wildfires.

Prussen said therefore, the four who were deemed "unqualified" were legally able to fight wildfires.

Breck could not find evidence to back another claim Chief Lambson refused to dispatch two firefighters to a 2013 wildfire due to personal issues with them.

Breck also determined there's no reliable evidence that Chief Lambson or anyone else falsified any training records.

The investigation did not include any information on other accusations.

Chief Lambson had no comment on the results of the investigation and there is no word on whether or not there will be future legal action connected to the case.

Board of Trustees Chair Keith O'Brien said he and the other board members will decide if Chief Lambson will be reprimanded at their next meeting on April 21.

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