Yarnell Fire Chief Jim Koile resigned during a special meeting of the fire board today, according to a board member, reports The Arizona Republic.
The sudden announcement came after reports in The Arizona Republic last week that, under Koile’s direction, the town was not adequately prepared to meet the threat of wildfire. About a quarter of the homes in Yarnell and Glen Ilah burned during the June 30 Yarnell Hill Fire that killed 19 Prescott firefighters.
Yarnell Fire District Board Member Carole Ryan read Koile’s resignation letter.
“It is with both sadness and pride that I submit this letter to you. I have worked very hard, as you know, to build a professional fire department in Yarnell,” the letter read. “I am proud of the work that I accomplished here and I know that you recognize the value of my contributions to the Yarnell Fire Department… I recognize that the fire department and community of Yarnell are now at a point where a younger fire chief with high energy and progressive ideas is required.”
Koile went on to list accomplishments during his tenure as chief, including the improvement of the department’s professionalism, training, equipment and personnel.
Board members, including chairman Arlon Rice, praised Koile’s work in recent interviews.
But a number of firefighters and dispatchers quit before and after the Yarnell Hill Fire, citing Koile’s management methods and an overall lack of preparedness. Specifically, one captain complained that Koile blew off efforts to clear brush in and around homes in Yarnell.
The post-fire accident report said that incident commanders determined the town was impossible to defend because of dangerous brush build up near homes. Another Republic report quoted neighboring fire officials who criticized Yarnell’s early efforts responding to a lightning strike fire on Yarnell Hill June 28.
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