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More cameras focused on Uniontown, PA fire chief. News coverage of Chuck Coldren’s tirade has mayor saying there will be an investigation.

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Previous coverage of this story

Watch WPXI-TV coverage

We introduced you to Chuck Coldren Tuesday night. He is the career fire chief of Uniontown, Pennsylvania (Fayette County) making a little more than $56,000 per year. The chief, wearing a t-shirt and shorts, let Uniontown resident Chris Shellhammer have it on Monday at an emergency incident. Shellhammer’s video is now making news. Local newspapers and at least two Pittsburgh TV stations did the story yesterday trying to get to the bottom of the fire chief’s tirade.

It turns out Chief Coldren missed his latest turn on camera because he is on vacation and reporters could not reach him at his home or office. This left Mayor Ed Fike to answer for Uniontown. Upon seeing the video, Mayor Fiske described Chief Coldren as a low-key guy who had to have been provoked to act that way. Shellhammer claims there was no provocation. The mayor told reporters there will now be an investigation and if an apology is warranted he is sure the chief will have no problem doing that.

The video has prompted lots of discussion with hundreds of comments posted on STATter911.com and related Facebook pages and many other forums. Only a couple of people have come to the chief’s defense so far.

WTAE-TV:

Uniontown resident Chris  Shellhammer likes to know what’s going on in his neighborhood. So when he saw  police and fire vehicles near his home on Monday, he walked over to see what he  could see. He also started capturing video with his cellphone.

In the video, Uniontown  Fire Chief Charles Coldren approaches Shellhammer in plain clothes and ask him  to move back, which Shellhammer does. Shellhammer suggests the area should be  taped off if the public is not allowed. That’s when the encounter escalates.

“You’re not going to  tell me how to do my (expletive) job. Now, if you want to keep running your lip  I’ll have you (expletive) arrested. You can record me all you want. I don’t give  a flying (expletive),” Coldren says in the video.

It’s important to note,  Shellhammer described himself and his family members as “community activists,”  and they’ve become known in the community as a result. Shellhammer said he’s  skeptical of authority and often joins protests at the Fayette County  courthouse. However, in the Internet video, Shellhammer’s responses don’t seem  to warrant Coldren’s responses and, at one point, Coldren appears to challenge  Shellhammer to a fight.

“You want to put that down  and take it to another level?” Coldren said in the video. “Let’s go.”

Action News went to  Coldren’s Uniontown home looking for answers but he didn’t answer the door. An  employee at the fire station said he is on vacation until next week. Channel 4  was first to show Uniontown Mayor Ed Fike the Internet video, which has now been  viewed more than 5,000 times.

“You only hear one side of  it, not that that makes either side right,” Fike said.

WPXI-TV:

“He said he doesn’t give a flying ‘F’ if I record him, knowing he was being recorded. It just blew my mind,” said Shellhammer.

When shown the video of the fire chief, Uniontown Mayor Eddie Fike said, “He’s a low-key kind of guy. For him to say anything improper, someone had to provoke him, in my opinion.”

Shellhammer told Channel 11’s Cara Sapida he did nothing to provoke Coldren.

Fike said he will open an investigation.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • ukfbbuff

    Goon Squad Fire Chief!

    Fire him for Conduct unbecoming a Fire Officer.

    But make him and his red shirted thug apologize first!

  • Just speaking my mind. . . Do I still have that freedom?

    This is what happens when a fire chief like me gets appointed. I could look like a civilian tough guy and have no clue as to what the hell I’m doing. So I’ll be damn son if you’re going to film my embarrassments and make me look like a fool when you’re right that the area should be taped off. Then I’m going to call fredrick on over, but before then I’m gonna show you what tough guy I really am and ask you if you want to take it to a whole different level and stroke out before I throw the 1st punch. Then his 2 bodyguards that look like walking heart attacks come on over. Nevermind the scene I’m in charge of. I’m gonna take it out on a civilian filming. The sad reality is people that are scared of being recorded in a “public domain” are scared of their position and shouldn’t be in it. Oh and by the way what a major incident this looked like. . . .

  • Kathryn Jones

    We will request that an agency from outside the county do the investigation. As a matter of fact, we would be happy to hear suggestions as to which agency might best be suited to do a complete and unbiased investigation. The YouTube video clip is 2.5 minutes in length. The entire video is 15+ minutes in length and 5 of those 15+ minutes preceded the tirade. When the investigation is completed, the evidence will show that there was absolutely no contact between the camera operator and his brother and any emergency personnel on the scene prior to the Chief losing his cool. Once there is an official statement from the City, we will release the rest of the video. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

    • BH

      In an investigation of a local public safety official, my recommendation would be the state police.

  • mark

    I’m still amazed that the chief propositioned the photog.

    Kathryn, you can check with the ACLU, I think they’d be your best bet. Or check with Carlos Miller over at PINAC, he might have some ideas as well.

    SO the mayor is attempting to defend this clown before an investigation is started, much less finished. Uh huh. I could care less if he was provoked, he’s the chief, and if he can’t handle something as simple as a resident with a camera, this town is in for serious problems when a real emergency occurs.

    It wouldn’t have been better for the photog, but it is too bad he didn’t stand his ground. Pretty sure there would have been some constitutional rights violations then. Would have forced the cops hand as well, as he didn’t look any too happy about backing up this idiot.

  • retired firefighter

    Hmm, the “chief” (not wearing any kind of official identification or offering any) berates and curses a citizen. I don’t know the laws in PA but wonder if the chief could be charged with any or all of the following:

    1) disorderly conduct (repeated cursing in public)
    2) Intimidation under color of authority
    3) Verbally threatening a person (cameraman was in fear of harm)
    4) Violation of 1st amendment rights?
    5) Conduct unbecoming (that creates a bad image to the city)

    Wonder if the chief or any of the others on the video we see understand the need to wear proper protective gear at aq fire scene and/or safety clothing while standing on roadways?

  • Alan Rose

    Back before every breath was on film and immediately available on Youtube, I had a politician threaten to “take me out back” when I was the President of a small Rescue Squad, in a business meeting. I quickly called 911 and had a Deputy respond. Sure wish I had it on tape, but there were several witnesses. This Chief (clown) needs to go.

  • Ray

    Leave the Chief alone. You want a fire chief who’s politically correct and throws candy at parades or someone who gets the job done? We need to quit holding people to higher standards than ourselves. If the idiot with the phone thought the area should be taped off, he can talk to his elected officials about scene management and bystander safety. Citizens don’t get to dictate scene control policy during the middle of an event. When someone, in uniform or not, inside an “emergency area” tells you to get back….just shut up and get back. Lets follow this idiot around with a camera and I bet he can’t go more than a week without pissing off someone else. It’s his personality, you can see it. He can play the innocent and shocked citizen all he wants. He’s a jerk and it’s obvious. Sad thing is that fire chief would still give mouth-to-mouth to this idiot, and would still go into a burning building to save him. Oh golly gee, he uses foul language? Where are all the altar boy firemen waiting to be promoted to chief? Was a time when a fire chief was a respected position. Now he gets questioned by citizens as to how he’s doing his job….in the middle of a situation. Doubt anyone jumped in and told him to better position the patient the last time he did CPR and saved someone life. Oh yeah, let’s forget about that because he said f u c k in public and its on tv now. BS! Grow up people.

    • dave statter

      In an almost 40 year news career I have had many, many people dressed in civilian clothes tell me what I can or can’t shoot at emergency scenes. Most of them were civilians. I asked each one of them to identify themselves much the way this man did. I have also had many in uniform tell me I can’t stand where the public is standing because I have a camera. The chief did not seem interested in moving the person who didn’t have the camera.

      This isn’t about being politically correct. It’s about being a professional and understanding our basic rights as citizens as outlined in the Constitution. I have no idea, like you apparently do, if the person holding the camera is a jerk or not based on what I saw on the video. I do have an idea about the whether the chief is one or not based on his performance. And I will admit that may not be fair. But it’s the impression he willingly left for all of us to see.

      Stop defending the indefensible with we do CPR and mouth to mouth and run in where others run out. Doing all of those things is why the public admires you as firefighters. Stop undermining that with actions like this.

    • chief511

      You must be related. To defend this man should be a crime.

      • frankie

        In my 26 years with Fire and Ems I found great pride to inter act with the public as long as I was not occupied with other duties. It makes good PR plus you gain the respect of the community. No need to act like a A_S as this chief and his two stooges. The man from the video did not appear to be in the way. Appears that the chief has no trainning in dealing with the public. Oh and by the way Mr Foley grow up, those squids are the everyday people you protect, “Oh they look down on me,” Oh no one cares BOO BOO HOO FUC_IN BABY If you are so upset find another job

    • Still Smiling

      Ray,

      You’re kidding right? Defense of this behavior is the problem with many fire departments. He is the Fire Chief, therefore he is held to a higher standard. Just like all of the firefighters that work for him. He is a public servant. Not a person on an alter, that allows his ego to speak to humans like they are trash.
      Secondly, you are right. He will pull this man from a building or give him life saving measures. It is his chosen profession, and he is at the top of it in this particular fire department. But, none of these points makes him better than the person recording or gives him the right to talk to another person like he did.
      I ask again, you’re kidding…right?

    • Longduckdong

      Ray. The one who needs to grow up is the Chief, and anyone who thinks this is the proper way to behave.

    • Steve

      Sorry Ray, PUBLIC SERVANTS are required to uphold the Constitution. This wanker never got the memo. Public servants who do not OBEY the law, are tyrants and deserve what they get. And to BH…the PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE ???? LOL They are worse than this assclown! Absolutely no respect for the people who pay their salary! This while situation is escalating. People in positions of power are drunk with it. I see it every day. You read the papers? Look at what the NSA, CIA, FBI and Obama is doing right now! And ALL of it illegal but they dont care because they think the US citizens are fat lazy and dont give a rats behind as long as their internet works and the welfare checks keep coming.

  • Anonymous

    Let the coverup begin…

  • http://statter911 Glad to be retired

    OH Kathryn, clearly you have a job that requires no worries about your future much less that of the city. I would suggest you find retired professionals that have retired from the fire service out of the state. That will ensure TRANSPARENCY not a lot of that in this state (pa), of course you would have to provide fiduciary reimbursement (Pay them) and you will and the Mayor will find you have been harboring a untrained zealot with a hidden agenda! Thus all is not the fault of the city, the state has never grasp the idea of having qualified (Nationally) officers or chiefs as much of the rest of the surrounding states have done. This will of course be blamed on budgets, as with anything that does not appear to need attention or cause a problem. It maybe time for the mayor to step up and become a mayor not a buddy, this will be game on if you allow this to languish! Not only has he and the administration become the laughing stock of small government, you have disgraced the fire service as many others have as well. This will become more intense of course when social media takes off, I am confident your shop cannot ward of the incoming

    • Kathryn Jones

      Huh?

  • NewsWorking

    I see a problem arising in the U.S., The Government can record everything the citizens in this Country do, from our phone calls, emails and video surveillance, BUT they have a problem when the citizens record them! This chief should be FIRED but a look at the Mayor and it doesn’t look like anything will get done (The good ‘ole boys club), if you know what I mean. It’s time we start taking our Constitution seriously or we the people are going to lose it FAST! Wake up people.

  • Mark too

    I find it kind of ironic that you seem to have a problem with the Mayor’s statement in relation to the conducting of an investigation, but don’t seem to have any problem with the rush to “lynch” this guy before any sort of investigation has begun.

    I really don’t see a problem with what the Mayor said. He didn’t excuse the behavior, he just stated that the behavior was out of character, pointed out that this short video doesn’t necessarily show the full picture of the incident and stated that the matter was going to be investigated.

    The Mayor wouldn’t be acting “professionally”, something the Fire Chief is being chastised about, if he just joined in on the “lynching” without having the full story.

    • dave statter

      It is one thing to say it was out of charachter for what you know about the chief. It’s another for the mayor to say he must have been provoked, especially when there is nothing on the record so far indicating that. A statement like that from the mayor doesn’t lead you to confidence in his ability to provide an impartial look at this event. But I could be wrong.

      • Mark too

        I can’t argue against your point about the “provoked” comment. The actions of the chief are certainly unexcusable even if provoked and he should be held accountable for such. Personally, I’m equally disgusted with many of the comments I’ve read so far about the incident. It’s kind of typical these days I suppose. Nobody seems to have the patience or interest in the full story, just what they think happened.

      • Kathryn Jones

        There won’t even be a partial look at this event. The Chief will be shielded until this blows over and people stop caring again.

    • Kathryn Jones

      Yeah…you don’t know the Mayor or my city like I do. There will be no investigation….at least not one carried out willingly. You can bet on that.

    • mark

      Mark too, the mayor stated the chief must have been provoked. Very partial. Had he stated it was out of character, I could sort of agree with you.

      However, the lynching (IMO) is fully reasonable based on the chief’s request to the photog if he–the photog–wanted to have an orgy with the chief. Then, continuing on with profanity and asking the photog if he wanted to take it to the next level, after his unlawful order to move back WAS complied with. Having 2 (I think) firemen back him up is also uncalled for.

      I just don’t see how any of this could be remotely excused, justified or reasoned as being out of character. This idiot was as out of control as Capt Stupid.

      PS Why does it seem that any time an issue like this arises, the offending party is “on vacation”?

  • OldSutterOne

    I think the fire service is just learning what the new reality of what the Social Media is. Its one thing to see you or your dept. on TV. It’s another to have open discusions and criticism, sometimes unjustified, in blogs etc.. No wonder incidents like this are being reported. Maybe they always did occur but are just being reported more. There is no going back to the days when buffs where there to take pictures and were willing to share them with the dept. Besides all the other qualities it takes to be a good chief, diplomacy, will be more important than ever before.

  • Kathryn Jones

    There is a reporter from the Tribune Review coming to the house now to review the entire video. Perhaps her report will put an end to the “provoked” nonsense once and for all.

  • chief511

    WOW very professional. How does the camera guy know he’s the fire chief. He’s in t-shirt and shorts. No credentials just a load mouth. Looks like he just wanted to show what power he thinks he has. Only thing he did was make him and his dept. look like jerks. Mayor you should not only shut this man up but Fire him.

  • Tim Foley

    As a Firefighter for 9 years now we get rubber neckers and OMG Squid all the time. At scene People have no right to record because of the privacy of the people involved in the scene, Weather it be a fire or a wreck. The person in charged of the scene told the man to do something and the a-hole didn’t do it. He should of been arrested. Let use firefighters do our jobs. Just like cops we a looked down upon until where needed then everyone wants help.

    • dave statter

      Actually Tim Foley if it is in a public place they have every right in the world to record. There is no expectation of privacy. That is derived from our Constitution and has been affirmed by federal courts all over the country. Operating under the misinformation you stated will only continue to get firefighters in trouble. You need to read up on this. I would start with http://firelawblog.com by firefighter and lawyer Curt Varone.

      • RJ in florida

        Dave: don’t you love the amount of people who think they know the law (in the face of numerous court rulings and legal information available?) folks just ain’t getting the message and if the area was taped off, the public WOULD know where not to go

        chief on vacation so suddenly…or so conviently?. since I don’t believe in coincidence I would ask…who’s in charge and since he was wearing a boy scout shirt, I need them to weigh in

        5 bucks says we get a rug sweep just like miami

        TIM FOLY (with 9 years experience): why don’t you concentrate on PATIENT CARE instead of who’s videotaping? BY LAW firefighters and ems personnel do not have the authority to stop anyone from taping anything so get over it and concentrate on your job

    • chief511

      Tim, watch the video again. He did what the chief asked. He backed up. Not sure where your from but in most places FF are looked upon with the upmost respect. If not then look inside your dept. If you agree with the Chief in question then that could be your problem. But this is my opinion. 27 years of service.

    • fireman

      Tim, if its a privacy issue then why do we have helmet cams, go pro’s etc…and post them on the internet. Why do we all love to watch videos of our profession. You would have no objections if you rolled up on a 2 story Vic blowing and going and you make a nice stop and this guy was filming. In case you forget, our profession is being attacked and scrutinized. WE work for the tax payer, lets not forget that.

    • doobis

      I hope you were just making that statement to try and inflame the discussion on here and that you did not really mean everything you said.

      I understand people don’t like cameras with all the lawsuits, finger pointing, and all the nasty Monday morning quarter backing. I also understand that not everyone with a camera is acting in an appropriate or ethical manner either. However, I will be damned if after spending 6 yrs in the military and now over 6 in the fire service if I am going to use coercive power to thwart the Constitutional rights of the citizens I am sworn to serve.

      There is enough recent media reports of questionable activities by the Federal government, we don’t need to bring questionable Constitutional activities to the local level. We need the citizen’s support and have an obligation to not abuse the trust we are given.

      On a side note, I also do not advocate an event like this necessarily destroying someone’s career. We all have our days and actions that are out of character and we wish we could take back. The chief needs to take responsibility, but unless there is a pattern of poor conduct, an appropriate level of discipline and not a career death sentence is all that is required.

    • mark

      Please go back(?) to school and take a civics or government class. Apparently you never had one in the first place.

      Dave already stated SCOTUS’ decision on right to privacy. So with that out of the way, you may want to take a peak at the 1st Amendment.

      Secondly, it is not breaking the law or making one guilty of an arrestable offense if the order is not lawful. Which this one wasn’t. Despite the fact that the photog complied with the order. Throw in the fact that this idiot didn’t even closely resemble, act, or speak like a fire chief, he definitely doesn’t have to comply with the order.

      Third, please explain exactly what statute he would have been charged with violating and why that statute overrules the 1st Amendment.

      Fourth, the only one guilty of not doing his job was the “fire chief”. The photog was not in the way, was not interfering and complied with an unlawful order and was still bullied and threatened.

      Fifth, not sure where you are, but in most areas, fireman are respected until some asshat like this comes along and gives the fire service a black eye.

      Sixth, spelling and grammar go a long way. What exactly is a OMG Squid? Weather vs whether. Charge vs charged. Should have vs should of. Us vs use. Are vs a. We’re vs where. I know, your righteous indignation and ignorance of the Constitution was on full display, but I thought I’d just point that out for you.

      PS I’m guessing you are one of the over 60% of Americans who have no problem with our government spying on our every e-mail, phone call, blog post, etc as well. So very sad.

      • JustSayin’

        LOL

        Hey Markie,

        You just might want to add… Peak vs Peek

        Just a thought…

    • Just speaking my mind. . .

      No right to film on a scene in public domain in the USA? Well as it was stated before if people are scared to do their job and be recorded in a public domain then they shouldn’t hold that position. It is so unreal as far as what people think they know and what things should be. Even more sad about this story, nothing is going to come out of it like anything else these days. Like the deal down in Florida filming the landing zone. There are so many different stories happening today that the next new one is only a couple hours away and this will be who? what? where? when? how? oh that happened last week that’s ancient now such old news. It really is sad upon what is happening out there on fire scenes. People aren’t catching on to the “BIG PICTURE” about the fire service. I shouldn’t say people as in civilians (they have no clue as it is) I should say the members of the fire service (most today don’t have a clue either) should really take a look at the “BIG PICTURE”. Its sad for the time we live in which will only get worse. Don’t know what else to say, but its a sad case. . . .

    • Jason Batz

      Sorry Tim, but you’re wrong..the public has every right to film while standing in a safe area.

  • SFC

    I may have missed it, what type of fire call was the F.D. there for?

  • ballz

    Listen! The chief was unprofessional in what he did. Was it a crime??? No! Everyone needs to get over it. Ms Jones your 15 minutes of fame is about over. People…. The woman holds up signs in this city about police Chief Cox stating ” Jason Cox is a dirty cop.” and Jack is a drunk. All you are to the working people is a pain in the ass. I bet you are not even a real tax payor. We the working people pay for you. Your welcome!!!!! I want my cell phone back to! I paid for it i’m sure.

    • Kathryn Jones

      You wish.

  • Anonymous

    LOOKS LIKE THE CHIEF AND HIS LIL BIZZOS HAVE BEEN HANGING AT THE DONUT SHOP MORE THEN THE COPS, LOL. NICE FOOD BLISTER ON THAT LOUD MOUTHED JACK ASS.

  • bgbootylvr

    Looks like the fire chief and his lil bizzos have been spending WAY more time at the donut shop then the cops!!

    Hey guys, there is a website called crossfit. Try it. It may help with that food blister of yours…

  • Steve ( former Fire Chief)

    Okay now that emotions are running crazy, I need to remind the Firefighters here. Firefighters, no matter how “salty” you think you are, how much good you think you do for your community or how badass your parade wagon is, are NOT law enforcers. Way too much power is assumed illegally by fire dept. personnel. Whatever happened to us making sure the public does not see us as a threat? Our personnel enter dangerous and emotionally charged scenes all the time and the only thing protecting you and me is the hope that the bad guys do not see us as a threat…otherwise we become targets just like the cops.

  • Kathryn Jones

    http://triblive.com/news/fayette/4191234-74/shellhammer-video-coldren#axzz2W8I1gQBx

    It’s obvious from the whole “bomb scare”, “harm’s way”, “no comment” stuff that this investigation which does not include contacting the victim four days out is going to be the illusion I predicted.

  • Chunna

    Fire Chief, Scout Leader and Alter Boy. In which of these important responsibilities might we say this conduct is acceptable? Do you think this is an isolated incident for Mr. Coldren? This is a guy that tells you on your first day of work “Don’t forget I sign your f_____g paycheck.”