The Los Pinos Fire Protection District has brought back Larry Behrens as its acting volunteer interim fire chief as the district’s board conducts a search for a new chief and deputy chief.
In the meantime, the former deputy chief, Kevin Ratzmann, and a Los Pinos captain, Seth St. Germain, are on a committee working to recall the district’s five board members. Ratzmann was fired by the district Nov. 19.
The recall committee has 50 days to collect 300 signatures from residents who live in the fire district to remove chairman James Brown and board members Frank Weis, Kirk Becker, Mark Williams and Paul Blocker.
“I don’t know what to say about it,” Brown said of the recall petition. “I hope the citizens do their research before they sign.”
Even with the turmoil surrounding the district’s administration, Brown said he and Behrens believe the board can find qualified replacements for Ratzmann and Chief Tom Aurnhammer, who is set to retire at the end of December.
“We have good people in the department and the community,” Brown said, and the board should be able to hire new leaders “in a timely manner.”
The board appointed Behrens as interim chief Dec. 10. He’s volunteering his time “out of the goodness of his heart,” Brown said.
In the meantime, Ratzmann thinks the recall committee will be able to gather 300 signatures “fairly quickly.”
The recall committee is holding meetings at 6 p.m. Monday at the TARA Community Center at 333 Milton Lane in Arboles, then from 10 a.m. to noon and 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Ignacio Community Library. The public is invited to attend.
The group has a Facebook page, LPFPD recall, with meeting times and information.
Ratzmann said he was fired in retaliation for complaining to the board about the behavior of Chief Aurnhammer.
“The results of that investigation and Mr. Ratzmann’s conduct during the investigation resulted in the board’s decision to terminate him,” the letter states.
Brown said while the past few months have been difficult, the board and employees of Los Pinos continue to work hard to serve the community.
Los Pinos Fire covers 325 square miles in southeastern La Plata County and parts of Archuleta County, including Ignacio, Arboles, Allison, Oxford and the corridor along La Plata County Road 318. It also covers parts of San Juan County, New Mexico.
Aurnhammer became fire chief in 2016, after then-Chief Larry Behrens retired. Aurnhammer had served as deputy chief since 2003. Before joining, he worked as a fire chief in Farmington.
The next meeting of the Los Pinos board is at 7 p.m. Jan. 7 in the fire department headquarters.