State Censures Southern Arizona Fire Chief

Posted: Updated:

An area fire chief has received a decree of censure for his actions last winter. Whetstone Fire Chief Pete Bidon demanded an air ambulance from a particular company respond to an accident scene -- even though there was another much closer.

The incident was the subject of a FOX 11 News investigation. The state cited Bidon for unprofessional conduct.

They say seconds matter when responding to an accident. So in Southern Arizona, when first responders need a helicopter air ambulance, there's a dispatch system in place to call closest available helicopter to the scene - no matter which company runs it.

In December, Whetstone Fire Chief Pete Bidon told us he doesn't agree with that protocol.

"I think we should do away with this protocol. I think when we utilize an air ambulance, I'm the customer. And if I'm not getting the service they say they'll provide or be there for, then why continue using them?" Bidon said.

Chief Bidon happens to work for one air ambulance company, Arizona Lifeline. He told us he's had problems with another company, LifeNet. So in a December accident, where a girl died and a 16-year-old boy needed to be rushed to the hospital, Bidon directly called the company he works for instead of using the dispatch system.

That, despite the fact LifeNet -- the company Bidon dislikes -- had a much closer helicopter available.

Tucson MEDS Dispatch: "You can't just ask him over the radio if he wants us to launch the closer helicopter out of Sierra Vista and cancel the farthest one away he already requested?"

Local Dispatch: "I'm going to say no."

In our interview, Chief Bidon defended his decision.

"I'm calling direct until we get this issue fixed," he said.

But in an interview with the state medical director, Bidon admitted his actions were inappropriate, and said he wouldn't do it again.

The medical director found that Bidon not only violated the air medical protocol, but the Sierra Vista Regional Health Center policy, and even Bidon's own Whetstone Fire District written procedure.

In the report, the medical director wrote he chose not to give Bidon probation, suspension or revocation, since Bidon said he'll follow the protocol in the future.

We wanted Chief Bidon's response to the censure, but he did not return our calls.