Featured Stories

Columbia River Fire and Rescue Division Chief subject of an internal investigation

Divison Chief Ron Youngberg placed on paid administrative leave as investigation nears end

YoungbergA 25-year Columbia River Fire and Rescue division chief has been the subject of an internal investigation into a misconduct allegation since before Christmas.

Now, Division Chief Ron Youngberg has been placed on paid administrative leave for an unspecified number of days as the investigation near its conclusion, said Fire Chief Jay Tappan.

Youngberg oversees CRFR’s day-to-day operations and manages the fire and emergency response agency’s resource maintenance facility and logistics.

Tappan said he could not discuss specifics about the allegation against Youngberg, who was placed on paid leave Monday, Jan. 11.

“All I can confirm is that there is an investigation on some allegation and we’re dealing with it,” Tappan said. “We’re doing it under advisement of counsel. Just like we do everything, we use our legal team to guide us on any investigation of personnel issues.”

Tappan said Youngberg was placed on leave ahead of a final investigative report, which he said is expected to be concluded “very soon.”

“We were just at a point in the investigation where we needed to have him in a protected place,” Tappan said. Placing an employee on leave is standard CRFR protocol when workplace sensitivity issues arise in the course of an investigation, Tappan explained.

Youngberg started with CRFR in July 1982. He has served as a division chief, a position second in command only to the fire chief, since 1990. He has additionally served as incident commander for the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office since 2013, and has been an OSFM safety officer since 2002, Tappan confirmed.

Tappan said he is unaware of any prior disciplinary measures taken against Youngberg during the division chief’s more than three decades with CRFR. He added that any disciplinary action that could result from the current investigation would likely occur following discussions with the CRFR board of directors and legal counsel.

“It will be a coordinated effort,” he said.

In July 2013, Youngberg came under scrutiny for his response to a report of a foul odor in the Columbia County Courthouse. Youngberg ultimately ordered an evacuation of the courthouse and pulled what he thought was a fire alarm. Instead, the alarm triggered the release of a powdery fire suppressant that was released through the courthouse’s ventilation, heating and cooling systems, causing an estimated $390,000 in damages.

Emergency responders later traced the odor to overheated batteries in an electrical room.

County officials labeled the incident an “accident,” though the county filed a lawsuit against CRFR in Columbia County Circuit Court in July to recoup damages from the incident.

Efforts to contact Youngberg for comment on this story were not successful.

— Reporter Nicole Thill contributed to this story