Updated: Dec 7, 2022
By Elizabeth Perry
Stowe Fire Chief Matt Chapman has been charged after police say he physically attacked a Presston firefighter at a residential fire call in McKees Rocks on Dec. 4.
A verbal disagreement broke out between Chapman and Presston Firefighter Joe DeFazio at the Olivia Street blaze. Sources close to the matter said it involved a clash about firefighting procedure. Chapman sat in his vehicle while he and DeFazio argued. When DeFazio walked away, police said Chapman jumped out of his vehicle, followed the other man and struck him.
McKees Rocks Police Chief Rick Deliman said DeFazio sustained an injury to his left eye during the altercation, which lasted less than 30 seconds before police intervened and separated the two men.
“The police were standing right there,” Deliman said.
Chapman was charged with simple assault and harassment.
Stowe Township Manager Roberta Farls said the township is conducting an internal investigation at this point, and she could not speak further on the matter.
Ironically, Chapman has worked to create greater coordination between area departments in order to fight fires with greater efficiency. The Presston department is not part of the program, which Chapman began shortly after he was named chief in 2021.
Crafton, McKees Rocks and Stowe formed West Hills JOG – a joint operating guideline that gives members specific assignments and sets protocol for fire calls. The move was in response to declining volunteer numbers, a problem that has plagued many volunteer fire companies.
Departments that respond to calls in Stowe, for example, include McKees Rocks, Crafton, Kennedy, Moon Run and the Seville department located near Brighton Heights.
While the latter three are not members of the program, they are familiar with predetermined assignments and the standard operating procedures being set by the guidelines.
There have been disputes between the fire companies before, though of a non-violent nature.
In 2011, the Presston Volunteer Fire Department refused to merge with two other Stowe-based fire companies, West Park Volunteer Fire Department and the Fleming Park Volunteer Fire Department.
Presston Chief Mike Stepek declined to comment on the JOG program or the incident which led to Chapman being charged. Chapman did not respond to a request for comment.