‘This is not leadership’: Spokane Fire Department battalion chief leaves over vaccine mandate

SPOKANE, Wash.– A Spokane Fire Department battalion chief is calling it quits and retiring early ahead of the state’s vaccine mandate deadline.

Battalion Chief David Heizer sent a letter to Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer and Mayor Nadine Woodward saying it isn’t his choice to stop serving the community, but instead theirs.

Heizer said in the letter he filed for a religious vaccine exemption and it was approved by the city. However, the problem came when he was told there were no accommodations for him.

“No accommodations is not a choice. Many fire departments have been able to accommodate their members. The decision by the leadership of the Spokane Fire Department and the City of Spokane shows a lack of concern for the people that have served the community for so long. This is not leadership,” the letter said in part.

Heizer said he served the Spokane community for 29 years and would have liked to continue for many more. He said he takes pride in his job and how he does it.

He ends the letter by saying his last shift will be on Oct. 15. Then, on Oct, 16, he said he will file for retirement in the LEOFF2 retirement system. He said that’s what he’s doing because he has a wife and four kids to support. He said after he leaves the department he will look for another job “that I may loyally serve.”

Brian Coddington, the spokesperson for the City of Spokane, released this statement, “We are saddened to see some choose to leave the department.  They have a difficult choice under the Governor’s mandate to become fully vaccinated or not. We respect their choice and also ask that the City’s decision be respected. The City made the similarly difficult and best decision it could for the safety and health of the community when evaluating the risks of allowing unvaccinated members to treat our community members when they are most vulnerable.  As difficult as they are,  everyone is making the best decisions in light of the mandate in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic.”

Heizer isn’t the only Spokane Fire Department employee in this position.

It granted 48 vaccine exemptions, but those firefighters could still lose their jobs because there are no accommodations for them that also keep the public safe.

RELATED: Nearly 50 Spokane firefighters face losing their jobs over vaccine mandate

The city gave the firefighters impacted six options:

  1. Essential Function Layoff
  2. Leave Without Pay*
  3. Resignation
  4. Retirement
  5. Separation
  6. Paid Leave*

*These options are only for those who won’t be vaccinated by the Oct. 18 deadline. Those who chose leave without pay can do so to delay other alternatives.

Firefighters can apply for other positions within the city where the mandate doesn’t apply. We won’t know how many of these firefighters choose to leave until the end of November at the earliest.

The city promises it won’t affect calls to 911.

Battalion Chief David Heizer letter by Tasha Cain on Scribd

MORE: Here’s how many Washington state employees have applied for a religious exemption