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12:49 PM Tue, Dec. 18th

Chloride fire chief in hot seat

More than two dozen Chloride residents have filed a petition to recall Chloride Fire Chief Orville Watkins Jr.

The petition accused Watkins of conduct unbecoming a fire chief, in a incident in which Watkins was convicted of DUI.

Records indicate that Watkins was stopped while driving an ambulance in February 2000.

His blood alcohol level was tested at more than .10

Watkins was sentenced to one year probation and one a day in jail.

Brad Nelson, director of the Mohave County Elections Department, said Watkins has three options if the required 24 signatures are presented to his office by June 23.

They are:

• He can resign and the county board of supervisors would then approve a new fire chief.

• He can remain silent and his name would be considered in a recall election.

• He can offer a statement in defense of the charges and his name would again be placed on a ballot.

An election would be held by September if the required signatures are verified, he said.

Watkins, who has been fire chief for three years, is also accused of misleading the public by stating that the department had proper certification for emergency medical technicians, according to Mary Blake, one of Watkins' accusers.

"The volunteers (firefighters) are good," Blake said.

" … If they had a leadership."

Watkins admits to drinking several beers during the Feb.

26, 2000 incident, when a call came in to transport an injured victim of a domestic violence incident.

"I had four beers when I got the call," Watkins said.

"DPS (Arizona Department of Public Safety) asked if I had been drinking and I told the truth.

There was a life at stake.

What are you going to do? There was nobody else out here."

Watkins said at the time, River Medical ambulances did not serve Chloride.

The fire department would meet the ambulance at the intersection of Highway 93.

However, the ambulance service now covers the small community of about 300 people north of Kingman, Watkins said.

Watkins said he does not think the recall will succeed and said the group behind the recall was "nasty." In his last election he ran unopposed, he said.

"This is harassment," he said.

"Sometimes I'd hope to be recalled.

It wouldn't bother me a bit.

This is a non-paying 24-7 (24 hours a day, seven days a week) job."

Watkins also said currently there is no certified EMT in his department but one trainee is currently being certified.

It is required to have one EMT per shift, for three shifts, plus one back up.

Only in an extreme emergency where time was an essence would they transport someone to the hospital.

Other wise, DPS's helicopter or the ambulance would respond, he said.

"The town doesn't want me not to be fire chief," he said.

"With 300 people up here it took this long to get 25 people."