Volunteer Firefighter Screening Process

Oct 7, 2011 8:37 PM

North state residents are shocked to hear that 31-year-old Jairo Perkins-Grubbs had been previously convicted of arson, and still managed to become a volunteer Cal firefighter. Cal Fire officials are saying this incident may change the volunteer application process all together.

Magalia resident Richard Salcido says, "It's really sad and heartbreaking." Mary James from Sterling City Resident says, "It's someone that's supposed to protect you." Magalia resident Joanne Vondracek says, "I think it's a real shame.."

Magalia residents are upset and dismayed after finding out the man who investigators say torched the historic Lovelock Inn, the Desabla Market, and the Old Magalia Depot was a volunteer firefighter.

But it was hearing that Jairo Perkins-Grubbs had been previously convicted of arson and still managed to make it through the volunteer firefighter application process, that was even more upsetting to them.

I asked Salcido how he felt about that.. He said, "Oh I think that is paramount.. They should know where these people are constantly, just like child molesters." "It's amazing to hear that.. I didn't really have any idea," said James.

As a teenager, Perkins-Grubbs served time in Michigan for three counts of arson. So how does that go unnoticed when applying for a volunteer firefighter position? I asked Butte County Cal Fire Chief George Morris why there aren't back ground checks being done. He said, "That's correct! However on the application it asks two questions about criminal background."

Those questions are: have you ever been convicted of a crime by any court of a misdemeanor, and have you ever been convicted of a felony. I asked Chief Morris, "This person may have lied on his application.. Do you think there are others that could be out there?" Chief Morris said, " I would hope not.. But it's really difficult to tell."

Chief Morris acknowledges the volunteer application process needs to change, in order to prevent something like this from ever happening again. Chief Morris says, "Background checks for volunteer firefighters are something we are going to be presenting and suggesting to the county very soon."

Cal Fire officials say the current budget cuts have prohibited them from doing background checks on the hundreds of volunteer applicants that apply every year.


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