Niceville FD Battalion Chief Fired, Firefighters Demand Answers

More than 20 Niceville Fire Department firefighters voiced their discontent at the City Council meeting regarding the termination of Battalion Chief JD Curry, highlighting concerns over lack of explanation and impact on department morale.

In Brief:

    • Niceville Fire Department firefighters protest termination of Battalion Chief JD Curry at City Council meeting.
    • Concerns raised over lack of explanation and impact on department morale.
    • Related controversies include previous firefighter terminations and ongoing lawsuits against the city.

More than 20 of the Niceville Fire Department’s firefighters showed up at the Niceville City Council meeting to express their displeasure with the city administration’s decision to terminate Battalion Chief JD Curry. 


Curry, one of the few ‘old hands’ in the department, had 15 years of experience at NFD when he was terminated earlier this year. 


“Chief Curry has an impeccable record of service. He never called out of work a single day – and never received a single write-up or disciplinary action,” Niceville resident Kevin Holmes told the city council during public comment. 

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RELATED: Niceville, Fire Fighters’ Union Agree To Collective Bargaining Deal


“They don’t grow battalion chiefs on trees,” Craig Lewis, another resident and retired veteran of the fire service, said to the council.


Niceville Firefighter Ethan Randolph also spoke to the council directly: “We need to hear from you on this matter. We need to know if you condone this type of treatment for your city employees. We need to know where you stand so that we can have informed conversations with our neighbors, friends, and families before we go to the voting booth.”


RELATED: Council members announce they won’t run again in 2025. 


Why Was Niceville Fire Department Fire Chief Curry Fired?


The firefighters’ main frustration with the council was that they believed no one had properly explained why Chief Curry’s employment ended with the city. 


According to IAFF Union Chapter President Travis Zaal, Curry was a union member. But as an administrator in the department’s structure, the collective bargaining agreement didn’t cover his employment. 


“Battalion Chief Curry is well-respected from the labor side,” Zaal said, “Just out of the blue, he was terminatedNo reason was given to me and my executive board, the other two individuals you saw go up there with me [to speak at the council meeting]. [We] had a sit down with the city manager to try and figure out, ‘hey, why did we lose this guy? We’re in a personnel crisis, to be honest, we have nothing but probationary fire fighters. We’re running out of employees. We need people – especially good, experienced people. So, it was a shock.”


The termination of Curry, Zaal claimed, put a chill in the city’s rank and file. “We’re counting on pensions to provide for our families when we can no longer work, or reach retirement age and that was taken away from him – or at least stopped. It feels ridiculous. We’re all wondering, ‘who’s next?'” Zall continued: “It’s cruel to do that to [Curry] and not even tell [him] why.” 


Mid Bay News contacted City Manager David Deitch about the situation. He told us, “To ensure the privacy rights of current and former employees, I am not going to discuss private personnel actions.”


Other Drama in the Department

This is not the first firing of a firefighter that the department’s union has seen as controversial. Last year, Union President Zaal said Lt. Timmy Sallee, a member of the bargaining unit committee for the union with the city, was let go during contract negotiations. 


Sallee’s case has been taken on by the union, which claims Sallee has a wrongful termination case against the city. He says they have filed two lawsuits against the city for wrongful termination on Sallee’s behalf. 


City Manager Deitch confirmed that the city is in an active lawsuit against Former Lt. Sallee, but clarified the city had not filed a countersuit against the former city employee. 

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