Most Princeton firefighters may leave, mayor asking for patience
The city of Princeton is days away from possibly losing most of its fire department.
In a letter addressed to the city council, and signed “The frustrated members of the PFRD,” firefighters cited safety and leadership concerns as just some of the reasons for leaving the job.
They wrote to Princeton city leaders, “At midnight of February 8, 2024, the majority of the Princeton Fire and Rescue Department will be walking away from something that so many have put blood, sweat, and tears into, unless there is a change in leadership. We are unwilling to continue to work under the direction of Chief Ron Lawrence.”
Assistant Fire Chief Josh Vaccari says this has been a months-long battle.
“With the failures in leadership, the safety concerns, [we] feel like it’s the right time to draw the line in the sand,” Vaccari told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
In another letter to city leaders, this time from December, firefighters wrote they approved a vote of no confidence in Chief Lawrence. 34 voted, and only one voted in favor of the chief.
“The community the citizens deserve honesty and transparency,” Vaccari said.
The December letter states over the last several years, Lawrence’s decision-making has “decreased safety, moral, trust, and increased liability.”
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to Chief Lawrence in several ways and has not heard back as of Friday night.
Princeton Mayor Thom Walker says he has confidence in the fire chief and that they’ve addressed the department’s equipment concerns that they know of.
“I would say to the firefighters, the rank and file firefighters, we’re not ignoring this issue. We’re actively dealing with it,” Walker said.
Walker is talking about a deal the city approved for St. Paul law firm, Flaherty & Hood, P.A., to conduct a workplace assessment that includes one-on-one, anonymous interviews with firefighters to address their concerns and talk through possible solutions.
“You just have to give us a little bit of time to work through it,” Walker said.
But, Vaccari said that’s time they’re not willing to give.
“We were told that process could take a couple of months. These issues need to be addressed immediately,” Vaccari said.
Walker said he expects this to be a big topic at the city’s next council meeting.