Local News

The Council Gets an Earful over the Campfire Controversy

July 21, 2011

By Mike Scerbo

To call the July 20th Tusayan Town Council meeting a barn burner would be an understatement. The Tusayan Town Council’s decision to seek an investigation into a small campfire set at the Town’s 3rd of July celebration drew more than 40 people to the Council Chambers, and many who spoke had some strong words for the Council for turning a small campfire into a three-alarm controversy.

We've put together a video summarizonmg the meeting. Here is a link.

Town Manager Enrique Ochoa previously told us he had been instructed to “Undertake an investigation to determine if the fire ordinance was violated and take appropriate action, which would be to report it to the proper authority.”
The Sheriff’s Office is now investigating to determine if any laws were broken and whether or not the Chamber of Commerce or the Tusayan Fire District were at fault.
Despite the crowd’s mood, Mayor Greg Bryan isn’t backing off. “If we were to ignore a law being broken that the council has, then we would probably have to ignore other laws down the road.”
Former Mayor Pete Shearer doesn’t think the town’s fire ordinance even applies, “The way we intended this, excepted are fires that are in conjunction with special events.” He adds, “The way the ordinance was written, there should have never been any issue with this.”
Resident Eric Gueissaz noted the conditions on the 3rd of July were cold and muddy and he said the fire ‘warmed the spirit’ of those attending. He added Tusayan needs, “A little bit more integrity towards the people instead of just for certain people.”
Fire District Chief Robert Evans says several Town officials were at the event and nobody complained to him. At the July 20th meeting he gave the Town Council both barrels. “It’s wrong, we were at that thing; it rained an hour and a half. I talked to (councilman) Bob Blasi, I talked to (councilman) Al Montoya, I talked to Enrique (Ochoa). If any of you guys had any integrity and said put the fire out. I wasn’t there when the fire got lit. I came down later to get the trophy.” He added, “Somebody could have come up and said put the fire out.”
Councilman Bob Blasi’s reaction came at the end of the meeting. He claimed that people listening outside council chambers two weeks prior leaked the information. This reporter was outside the chambers during that time and observed that no one appeared to be eavesdropping. Even so, Blasi says security will be in place to be on the lookout for prying ears.
Blasi then went on to take on the Fire District, “Ever since 911, people have this perception that firefighters are heroes. Everybody loves firefighters. Firefighters can do no wrong. They put out fires and they save lives. They answer medical responses. Everybody loves a firefighter. They can do no wrong. Excuse me. I’m speaking from experience. I’m a firefighter. I’ve served six years on the Tusayan Fire District for no money. I’d didn’t turn back or complain or tell people how many calls or hours I put in to declare myself a hero. Heroes are proclaimed by their peers by the deeds that they do. And they don’t need to be declared by the people who proclaim themselves as self-entitled heroes. Make no mistake, Firefighters are heroes by the deeds they do, not by the declarations of things they’ve accomplished. This is absurd, that these people march in here and say these things when they have no foundation of the information that they gathered, other than their perception of someone who eavesdropped behind a door at e-session. This is nothing but a bunch of people’s perceptions running awry. That’s what happened here.”
At that point there some animated discussion followed between Blasi and some in the gallery.
Here is a link to the video of Blasi bashing Tusayan firefighters.
The Chamber of Commerce seems willing to take the heat for this.  Director Norm Hanna told the council, “On behalf of the Organization and myself, I would like to apologize to the Town Council for the fire pit we had on the July 3rd festivities.” He also asked the Town Council to waive any penalties with the understanding that the incident will not be repeated.