Mid-Michigan trustee charged after incident with fire department - WNEM TV 5

Mid-Michigan trustee charged after incident with fire department

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)
Joe Wasmiller Joe Wasmiller
SAGINAW COUNTY, MI (WNEM) -

Firefighters rushed to the scene of a barn fire last week to extinguish the blaze, but when they arrived a Mid-Michigan elected official stood in their way.

Albee Township trustee Joseph Wasmiller was burning a barn on his property, but he didn't have a permit to do so, police said.

When the Spaulding Township Fire Department tried to put out the fire, Wasmiller allegedly got in his truck and that's when things are said to have gotten out of hand.

It all happened at Wasmiller's Albee Township home in Saginaw County on Bishop Road near W. Fry Road.

"The fire department, we're here to help people. We volunteer our time, especially in some of these smaller departments," Spaulding Township Fire Chief Thomas Fortier said.

Fortier is disappointed after responding to what started out as a routine call last week.

"We face a very small lack of manpower and to come out and help people, we're doing our job," Fortier said.

Three firefighters arrived to put out the barn fire.

"In this case, the suspect we arrested was very angry. He was very upset. He wanted the building to burn. He wanted to get rid of it. He wanted it gone. He was upset the fire department was putting it out," Michigan State Police Lt. David Kaiser said.

Wasmiller was arrested that day and charged with disobeying a firefighter.

"When you're cursing and swearing and being confrontational with a fireman, that is a problem. It is a violation of the law," Kaiser said.

Authorities said Wasmiller cursed at firefighters and told them not to put out the fire, but he didn't stop there.

Wasmiller then allegedly used his truck to go after the firefighters.

"He backed up and took off down the road where our fire crews were getting ready to fight the fire, where the barn was and in the process he ran a bunch of our hoses over and damaged some equipment," Fortier said.

Witnesses told police Wasmiller charged his truck at Fortier, coming very close to hitting him.

Wasmiller is also accused of contacting the township supervisor and asking him to urge firefighters to basically look the other way. But the firefighters called police.

"I wasn't going to do that. That's not my job," Fortier said.

Now another local official is accused of trying to cover the whole incident up.

Firefighters said township supervisor Leon Turnwald tried to persuade them from involving law enforcement.

Police are still conducting their investigation and said the case will soon be turned over to prosecutors.

Turnwald was not at the Albee Township Center when TV5 went to ask him questions.

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