Russian River fire chief's dismissal fuels discord

  • Forestville Fire Chief Max Ming is entering mediation with the Russian River Fire Protection District in an attempt to reverse the board's decision to fire him. The Forestville and Russian River fire protection districts are in a seven-year contract to share a chief.

    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Recent turmoil within the Russian River Fire Protection District transformed the slow and steady pace of civic engagement in and around Guerneville to a raging river of public discontent.

Normally quiet affairs attended by district directors and community activists, fire board meetings have become raucous events with heated calls for change filling the Armstrong Woods Road fire station.

The maelstrom was set off by the sudden August firing of popular Chief Max Ming, less than two years into a seven-year contract with the Forestville Fire Protection District to share a chief.

"This is an initiative by a community definitely not agreeing to a decision the board made, but it is also that the community has awakened," said longtime Guerneville resident Herman Hernandez, who works in town as a broker with Frank Howard Allen.

Ming's firing outraged firefighters and vocal members of the community who support Ming and, in response, have launched a recall campaign to oust at least two board members.

Even faced with a recall and entering mediation, board members have stood by their decision.

In a list of three dozen reasons behind the board's decision to dismiss Ming from the post that has been circulating in the community, the board laid out complaints ranging from the mishandling of confidential personnel files to delays getting the gutters cleaned.

The 10-page document, produced at the request of an attorney and remarkable in its microscopic look at the day-to-day handling of firehouse business, will be at the center of mediation talks that could take place by Oct. 21.

"I was relieved to see what the complaints — allegations, call them what you want — were," Ming said. "They're not egregious enough to get rid of me, in my opinion."

Ming, who is still chief of Forestville and continues to be paid by both districts, said the list finally shed some light on his August firing, after weeks of silence from the Russian River board.

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