July 13--North Las Vegas Fire Department Chief Al Gillespie has been placed on paid administrative leave due to an investigation into an incident that occurred during a January training exercise, said city spokeswoman Juliet Casey.
The exercise, which included other Southern Nevada fire departments, took place Jan. 24-28, according to Casey. She would not elaborate on the incident.
North Las Vegas Firefighters Association president Jeff Hurley said the training incident was conducted by a contracted company and involved a firefighter burning his ear.
Hurley contended the city's action against Gillespie was retribution for his refusal to enact cost-cutting measures due to its impact on public safety. The cuts include the rotating closure of one or two fire houses when necessary to accommodate low staffing levels.
Casey said the union's claim is untrue: "It has nothing to do with the budget," she said of Gillespie's leave.
Former North Las Vegas Deputy Chief Kevin Brame, who was laid off on June 30 for what the city told him was budget reduction reasons, said it seemed unusual to place a fire chief on paid leave because a firefighter sustained a burn injury during training.
Gillespie said he could not comment on the on the incident and the city's action against him.
The new acting chief is Jeff Buchanan, previously assistant chief.
The temporary loss of the fire chief is the latest in a series of adversities faced by North Las Vegas. The city has a $31.9 million budget deficit, recently laid off 120 workers and is engaged in bitter labor battles with its public safety unions. The city's tax revenue has collapsed since the bursting of the housing bubble, which occurred just as the city built a new city hall and sewage treatment plant.
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