Fire panel denies demotion attempt

March 28, 2019

Fort Wayne’s Fire Merit Commission on Wednesday unanimously denied the fire chief’s recommendation to demote a battalion chief.

Thomas Helmkamp’s promotion to that rank will be permanent, the commission decided.

The brief meeting ended with the applause of about 40 supporters who crowded the seventh-floor conference room in Rousseau Centre downtown.

Helmkamp recently completed the required one-year probationary period for the rank of battalion chief. Chief Eric Lahey asked the commission to demote him to captain.

The commission did not comment on its decision.

It heard arguments from Lahey and Helmkamp during a closed executive session last week, according to a news release from the Fort Wayne firefighters’ union.

Lahey, who was at Wednesday’s meeting, did not speak publicly about the matter.

After the meeting, Helmkamp shook hands with firefighters in attendance but declined to comment.

In a statement, the firefighers union said it appreciated the commission’s ruling.

“We are grateful to have these checks and balances in place so decisions that directly affect the health and safety of our firefighters are not simply carried out unquestioned,” Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 124 said.