Northwest NEWS

February 1, 1999

Local News

District to investigate if firefighter broke regulations

by Andrew Walgamott, staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--The Woodinville Fire & Life Safety District will look through its policies for violations a firefighter convicted for the deaths of three men may have committed.

   According to Fire Chief Steve Smith, the district's attorney will present a statement of "charges," violations of its operations manual, to senior firefighter George Moorhead early this week. Among other items the three-inch thick manual contains are codes of ethics, as well as general rules and regulations.

   Moorhead has 10 days after receiving the statement to give his side of the story. He will also choose whether he addresses the charges in an open meeting or behind closed doors, Smith said.

   In the interim, Moorhead has been placed on paid administrative leave and is facing a year in the county jail for the June 14, 1997 accident which killed Tien Thai, Huu Hoang, and Phu Huynh in Renton.

   Reached by telephone last Friday morning, Moorhead reserved comment until he received the statement of charges.

   Smith anticipated the district will be moving fairly quickly. "We want to move this along. We don't want to drag it along any longer," Smith said.

   Moorhead has not yet faced discipline by the district for the accident, according to Smith, and his sentence, which allows him to continue working, is forcing the district into action.

   If Moorhead had been sentenced to incarceration longer than one year, he would have been sent to state prison, and the question of continued employment, and thus discipline, would have been moot. But in the county jail, he will be eligible for work release and has said he hopes to continue serving as a firefighter.

   Sources indicate that the lack of disciplinary action by the district in Moorhead's case has caused some turmoil, though Smith said that to his knowledge there was no strife.

   While the district's attorney will decide which, if any, violations were made, it appears as if Moorhead broke at least one of the district's code of ethics. Rule number one reads that district personnel shall "obey all laws whether on or off duty."

   Moorhead has acknowledged speeding five to ten miles over the posted limit and running a stop sign the night of the accident.