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Was it training or a real fire response? Depends on which chief you ask

Contradictory statements to a reporter following weekend fire in Rhode Island

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There was a fire Saturday in Jamestown, Rhode Island at the former Jamestown Golf Course clubhouse. That much is clear. Everyone agrees the building burned. There are even pictures and video to prove it occurred. What’s in dispute is whether this was strictly a training fire, a real fire response or a combination of the two.

A reporter looking for answers received conflicting information from chief officers from two different departments. The official word from Jamestown is this was just a training exercise involving mutual aid fire companies. The problem with that explanation is a mutual aid chief claimed its participation was not training, but strictly a mutual aid fire response.

Searching for answers, Sean Flynn of The Newport Daily News asked Jamestown Fire Department Deputy Chief of Operations Howie Tighe if it was a training exercise that got out of hand — needing help from three neighboring departments. Chief Tighe denied that was the case, told the reporter to expect a press release from the police chief, ended the call before providing details and did not answer follow-up calls.

The Jamestown Police Department press release called the event a training exercise with neighboring fire departments, using a building that had already been scheduled for demolition today (Monday). From Sean Flynn’s article:

“The exercise involved the response of mutual aid assets from surrounding communities,” the release says. “Deputy Chief Tighe described the exercise as a unique opportunity for his staff to experience realistic fire conditions. The expanded exercise involving multiple agencies allowed for fire fighters to exercise their respective mutual aid response.”

Flynn reports that the original call was dispatched at 10:30 a.m. and request for mutual aid came within 20-minutes.

After the press release was distributed, Middletown Battalion Chief Jon Reese made it clear his department was not participating in a training exercise:

“We were not part of any training exercise,” Reese said. “We responded as part of mutual aid. They called us for aid. That training exercise was something we were not part of.”

It’s unclear who benefits from this kind of response to the news media and why those in charge in Jamestown wouldn’t want to provide clarity to the reporter and the public. Maybe their next training exercise should focus on media relations and reputation management.

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