WEBER COUNTY, Utah -- In a matter of days, the South Weber Fire Department went from 17 firefighters on staff to just nine.
This week, the city fired Chief Thomas Graydon after he allegedly refused to fire his deputy chief for falsifying payroll records. Captain Derek Tolman has taken on the role as interim chief of the volunteer department.
"The city should’ve had a plan in place for how the fire department is going to operate from here on out," Tolman said.
Tolman said seven of his colleagues quit after the firings this week.
"It was out of, we respected the chief, and we're stepping away because they felt they mishandled firing the chief," Tolman said.
Fox 13 News' Dora Scheidell spoke with former chief Graydon on the phone. He said the firing was, "grossly mishandled by city manager Tom Smith and city mayor Tammy Long."
Graydon said he recommended suspending the deputy chief, who had been a member of the department for 20 years and admitted to submitting five false payroll sheets. It was a recommendation that ultimately cost him his job.
"Who is going to run the fire department? They hadn’t even considered that, and where the fire department is going from here, losing 50 percent of our numbers," Tolman said.
Born and raised in South Weber, Tolman stepped up to the plate and took on the role as chief, but he's worried about the department's ability to respond to calls with only nine firefighters on staff.
"If South Weber has a fire department, we need to have the numbers and support of the city to be able to provide that service," Tolman said.
Fox 13 News reached out city manager Tom Smith several times on Thursday, but he never returned our calls.
Tolman says he gave the city a deadline of January 1 to come up with a plan to address the staffing issues and make sure the fire department is capable of doing its job.