WHARTON — Members of the Wharton-Barrett Volunteer Fire Department have been charged with allegedly forging training and equipment documents.
Ira Rash faces felony criminal charges for forgery of a public record and conspiracy for allegedly forging multiple certificates for himself and other members of the department, according to information from the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
The department’s chief, Robert Rash, allegedly knew about the forged documents and signed them, the information stated. He has also been charged.
The certificates are required by law for fire departments as part of regular reviews of training and equipment.
“No person in this office enjoys charging a firefighter with a felony,” Acting State Fire Marshal Anthony Carrico said in a prepared release. “However, the law requires minimum standards to be met by fire officers
and the public expects it.”
The office said Monday it has filed felony criminal complaints against fire officer Ira Rash and fire chief Robert Rash of the Wharton-Barrett Volunteer Fire Department.
A phone number listed for the fire department went unanswered. Messages left at both residences were not immediately returned.
Carrico said the fire marshal’s office hopes to send a message to the other agencies regulated by the office.
“All of the fire service community shares the responsibility to keep our communities safe,” he said. “That begins with obtaining the required minimum training.”
The fire chief told television station WSAZ in Charleston that he would not be stepping down during the investigation, but did apologize for signing the documents and submitting them without reading them. He said that he takes full responsibility for any problems this alleged incident and investigation has caused the fire department and the community.
“From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry,” he said to WSAZ.
The fire chief said he has been trying to work this issue out with the state Fire Marshal’s Office since March, the station reported.
There is no word on if the fire department would lose its certification or be closed down following the investigation. They are currently still an open and operating volunteer fire department, officials said.
(Fred Pace is the Editor for the Coal Valley News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-369-1165, or on Twitter @fcpace62)