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Eighth Ward Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ira Brown, of Ponchatoula, marks a flood map with locations he knows are improperly represented during a FEMA public input meeting in Hammond on Nov. 5, 2019.

The chief of one of Tangipahoa Parish’s largest fire departments has resigned as officials question his department’s handling of a fire truck’s hit-and-run crash with a civilian vehicle after Hurricane Ida.

Eighth Ward Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ira Brown is accused of taking shortcuts on the review process the department normally undertakes after a crash. He told a parish oversight board last week that he was sorry for how he handled the incident.

“I apologize to each and every one of you, ladies and gentlemen,” he told the board of the parish’s Rural Fire District #2, which is made up of members of the parish council. “It was bad judgement on my part — very bad judgement. Your recommendations are fair, and again, I’m sorry.”

Brown said he would immediately step down from the post he had held for 26 years.

In a specially-called meeting, the board recommended that Brown resign and be barred from participating in Eighth Ward services in any capacity following a crash on Sept. 10.

A Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s deputy responded to a call that afternoon from a driver saying a small truck with a fire department decal had hit her car on CC road in Ponchatoula and driven away, said sheriff’s chief Jimmy Travis. Travis said no one was injured in the collision.

The driver followed the truck to the eighth ward station in Ponchatoula, Travis said, where she spoke with Brown and the two agreed to resolve the issue among themselves.

Later, Brown allegedly ran afoul of fire district procedure for resolving accidents between a civilian and a fire department vehicle — a process that usually involves detailed reports, driver toxicology tests and, in some cases, investigation by outside law enforcement agencies, according to International Association of Fire Fighters guidelines.

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Fire district board chair Louis "Nick" Joseph referred questions about Brown's situation to board attorney Brad Cascio, who did not immediately return a message asking which rules Brown allegedly violated.

The board is still investigating the incident.

A day prior to his apology before the fire board, Brown wrote in a statement on the department’s website that he would retire to focus on family after a series of “life threatening illnesses” befell some of his immediate relatives.

“I cannot in good conscience continue to serve as the Chief knowing that I cannot devote the time and effort this position requires,” he said, “nor would I be able to give my family members the support and care they need.”

Brown had served as the eighth ward’s chief since 1994.

He “is a very well respected man in our community,” said Randy Bush, a Ponchatoula-area member of the Tangipahoa Parish school board. “I’m sure he wishes for a do-over.”

The Eighth Ward Volunteer Fire Department serves the heavily-populated southeastern part of Tangipahoa Parish from two stations, one in Bedico — a small community southeast of Hammond — and the other in Ponchatoula. It has almost 30 members, according to the department's website.

James Finn writes for The Advocate as a Report For America corps member. Email him at JFinn@theadvocate.com or follow him on Twitter @RJamesFinn.

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