Huntington Vol. Fire Dept. under fire for convicted felons on force

HUNTINGTON, TX (KTRE) - The Huntington volunteer fire department is in the midst's of a reorganization and in doing so, Huntington residents are expressing some concern for the type of people that are on the force.

KTRE has been investigating for the past month, the allegations that several felons were on the VFD, including at least 1 sex offender.

According to Huntington City Administrator, Bruce Milstead, the idea of reorganizing the fire department was volunteer fire chief Jerry LaSalle and a member of his board's decision.

Milstead said that they met with city officials back in December 2012 to express their concern with how the department was being run and that fire department leaders wanted to quote "clean house and terminate all the members and start fresh."

Under the advisement of the mayor, city council and Milstead, the fire department has re-written their by-laws and now has a new application process in place for potential volunteer fire fighters.

But now that the re-organization has brought to light the fact that several convicted felons were members of the previous force the Huntington community is concerned.

After trying to get in touch with fire chief Jerry LaSalle on multiple occasions, KTRE finally got a chance to talk with him about what's going on in the fire department.

When we asked LaSalle, who did not want to be on camera, how felons were a part of the previous department roster, he said he did not want to comment.

LaSalle did say, in the past the department wasn't as professional as it could have been and they've got rid of the trouble-makers.

City Administrator, Bruce Milstead said the city didn't know what kind of people were on the force.

"I was shocked when I found out that a registered sex offender was a member of the fire department," Milstead said. "If you're a convicted felon, the City of Huntington will not in any shape, form, or fashion, be willing to have you as a part of the fire department."

KTRE had a hard time finding anybody who really wanted to talk about the Huntington VFD but did talk to several people off camera that said they would be perfectly happy to volunteer to help out with the HVFD but they really don't want to be associated with the bad reputation the HVFD has right now

LaSalle says at between 10 and 12 people have re-applied to be on the force that were former members. They all have to pass a background check and be approved by the board. When we asked who is on the board, LaSalle declined to release those names. So far, he says 6-8 people have been through the whole process and are approved to be on the force again. He did not say who those people were.

Doug Sheffield is a former volunteer fire fighter, who has re-applied for his position and is waiting approval. He said quote: "There have been people in the past that have lied their way in here and we are all about saving lives and saving property."

When KTRE asked LaSalle who would be allowed on the new force, he said no convicted felons but when asked about a member of his board, who is a convicted felon, he said that he would have to take a deeper look into the new by-laws because technically that person is not in the fire department but on the board.

The Huntington City Council is meeting in an executive session with the board of directors of the fire department and Chief LaSalle Wednesday evening to discuss the HVFD and it's application process.

We are working on getting more details on what happened during that executive session.