Nowata Protesters Upset Over Dismissal Of Fire Chief

Tuesday, November 15th 2011, 4:10 pm
By: News On 6

A small group of protesters gathered outside city hall, to voice their disagreement with the firing of Fire Chief Don Belden.

Belden is the same fire chief who was honored recently for going into a house fire without his protective gear to save a small child.

Sounds of support filled the air, as drivers answered the call written on sign after sign. Many of these folks have been out here for hours, all because of one man.

"So they will rehire Chief Belden. He did not deserve to lose his job," said Angie Mattix, Nowata resident.

"I'm out here to support fire chief Belden who was fired for no good reason," said Cindy Moss, Nowata resident.

Don Belden was in charge of Nowata's fire department, until he was fired Monday.

"I was devastated he was just awarded for going in and saving a family. And they turn around and do this to him," Mattix said.

Supporters say Chief Belden just happened to be in the area when he saw the flames. And even though he didn't have his gear, he went into the burning building to save a 13 year old boy.

The Nowata paper ran a story on Belden after he was given a medal of valor for the incident. Nowata's city manager, Thomas Smyzer, said the act that won Belden so many fans is not what cost him his job. Smyzer is calling it a personnel matter.

But in dismissal papers that supporters showed News On 6, it clearly lists "disregarding safety regulations."

"no, not at all. Not when he was given all kinds of awards for what he did. I don't think that was any reason to fire the man," said David Lynn, concerned citizen.

The dismissal letter did list a string of other reasons, including "willful misconduct," "falsifying city records," and "misuse of city property and funds," specifically lying about equipment needs.

In those dismissal papers, Belden is accused of asking the city commission for $35,000 for two new rigs that the Nowata Fire Department doesn't have the people to operate. Supporters deny the fired chief misled commissioners.

The incident has given rise to two dueling Facebook pages.

Noweta Citizens For Postive Change

Nowata Citizens Against Hypocrisy