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Tue, Aug. 20

Yarnell names new fire chief

From L to R: Yarnell Fire Board Chair Arlon Rice along with board members Kevin O'Donnell and Frances Lechner, meet with new fire Chief Ben Palm on Monday.

From L to R: Yarnell Fire Board Chair Arlon Rice along with board members Kevin O'Donnell and Frances Lechner, meet with new fire Chief Ben Palm on Monday.

Assistant Fire Chief Ben Palm is stepping up to take the lead as chief of the Yarnell Fire District.

The Yarnell Fire Board announced their decision to promote Palm to chief during Monday's board meeting.

"He is very well qualified and has a lot of experience. He's been with us for two and a half years," board treasurer Richard Mayer said.

Palm, his wife, Tiffany, and their three children will be moving from Prescott Valley to Yarnell as soon as he can find housing, Mayer said.

Palm presented the board with a five-year plan that focuses on "equipment, training, employee recruitment and retention, financial stability and safety," according to a statement released Tuesday.

"He helped to fight the Yarnell Hill fire, understands the dynamics in the community and has established good relationships with many residents," the

statement read.

Peeples Valley Fire Chief Bob Heckman voiced his support for Palm at the meeting.

However, not everyone in the community is pleased with the board's decision to promote Palm.

"I like Ben Palm. I've worked with him and he seems like a good guy, but is he the most qualified person for the job? I seriously doubt it," resident and former Yarnell Fire District volunteer Errol Eastwood said. "The position should have been advertised nationwide. And if Ben Palm was the best candidate after that, then they could choose him. But they didn't do that."

According to the Yarnell Fire Department Personnel Manual, Section 301 Recruitment/Selection, the fire board is responsible for recruiting and filling the fire chief position when it becomes vacant. The board can consider internal promotions before looking outside the department for a replacement.

"I'm very disappointed that there was no attempt to find anyone else. I know people who wanted to apply for the job," former Yarnell Fire Chief Pete Andersen said.

While the board has negotiated a new contract with Palm, secretary Frances Lechner said those details would be released at the board's next meeting scheduled for Nov. 18.

Rice could not be reached on Tuesday for comments regarding Palm's contract.

The department's head position became vacant after Chief Jim Koile resigned Oct. 8 amid controversy regarding a past manslaughter conviction and his handling of the Yarnell Hill fire.

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