Fire chief temporarily demoted, told actions were inappropriate

Jennifer Lockhart fell during a training exercise. (WSMV)

A Nashville fire chief has been demoted to captain for six months and assigned to a different shift after a complaint was filed that he had been hostile and discriminatory to fire recruits.

The News 4 I-Team obtained the disciplinary actions taken against Captain Trey Nelms.

The action was taken following last year’s “Firefighter Survival Week” in which recruit Jennifer Lockhart fell during a training exercise at the department’s new training tower.

Before the accident, Lockhart said she asked for additional rope for a safety line before she fell and was denied.

“I was like, ‘Hey chief, can we use this rope? To do safety?’ And he said, ‘F*** no,’” Lockhart said.

Lockhart also said during the training week, Nelms made several disparaging comments about her gender, her family members within the department and other shifts.

“No, I did not think it was normal fire department hazing. I thought it was really deliberate and demeaning,” Lockhart said.

During one exercise, she said Nelms indicated her gender prevented her from completing the task.

“I did say, I was like, ‘Why are you laughing at me?’ And he was like, ‘Nobody expected you to do it,’” Lockhart said.

When questioned by the department’s HR manager, Nelms denied all the accusations.

“I've never done anything with the intent to be malicious or ugly or mean,” Nelms said.

But the disciplinary actions show Nashville Fire Chief William Swann disagreed.

The documents show that Nelms’ responses in the investigation were inconsistent and untruthful, and his conduct towards recruits was unprofessional and inappropriate.

Lockhart’s fall was deemed an accident.

A spokesman for the Nashville Fire Department said Chief Swann would not talk about his decision.

The I-Team reached out to Nelms’ new fire hall to request and interview with him, but we have yet to hear back.

Lockhart has now hired a law firm and intends to sue.

Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Chief Investigative Reporter

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