More than half of Gratis firefighters resign

More than half of the Village of Gratis’ volunteer firefighter personnel left the department last week after they approached council members with a petition that demanded either Fire Chief Paul Raab resign or they would instead, according to firefighters, city officials and documents obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

The petition – signed by 11 of the department’s 19 members – was presented before Raab on Aug. 13, according to firefighter Daniel Chambers. On Thursday, the petition was presented before council members, who accepted the 11 firefighter resignations.

A phone call to the Gratis fire station seeking comment from Raab was not immediately returned Sunday.

A letter obtained by the Dayton Daily News to firefighter Aaron Forrer and from Gratis Mayor Gary Vest said, “On Aug. 16 a letter with your signature was presented to the Village Council concerning the resignation of Chief Paul Raab. According to the letter if Chief Raab did not resign, 11 firefighters would no longer volunteer for the Gratis Fire department.

“We, the Mayor and Village Council, accept this as your resignation from being on the Village of Gratis Fire department,” Vest’s letter said.

The Dayton Daily News obtained the petition circulated by firefighters calling for Raab’s resignation. It listed 34 items that its proponents said speak to Raab’s faulty leadership.

These items include “Forging times on run sheets which are official documents,” “Hasn’t kept up building maintenance in going on 17 years as Fire Chief” and “Not doing fire inspections on buildings in the village and or township which endangers us firefighters and the community.

“Not only does he lack motivation for such an honorable title, we feel he poses a threat to us volunteers,” according to the petition.

Responding to the accusations on Sunday, Vest said, “Paul Raab is an outstanding firefighter and had served this community for 28 years.

“There is no merit in the accusations these people have made about him,” he said. “When he brought the statement to council Thursday night, he brought the paper they had written and they chose to resign and Paul did not.

“We feel Paul has been a good steward,” Vest said. “We received two new trucks this year, one FEMA grant, one through the fire department(’s) ability to manage their money and he does an outstanding job for us.”

The firefighters that resigned range from two years experience through 30, according to Chambers. Seven firefighters – not including Raab – remain, he said.

The petition noted that firefighters did not intend to disrespect Raab’s “name or character.”

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WHIO-TV contributed to this report.