Shavano Park fire chief showed up at scene shortly after saying he was drinking and could not come into work

Chief Darrell Dover texted at 9 p.m. that he had been drinking, arrived less than hour later

SHAVANO PARK, Texas – The chief of the Shavano Park Fire Department showed up and took partial command of a fire scene earlier this year after drinking alcohol, internal records obtained by KSAT Investigates show.

Chief Darrell Dover, who also serves as the city’s chief of emergency medical services and as its fire marshal, texted a captain at 9 p.m. on Sept. 2 that he could not come into work because he had been drinking.

Less than an hour later, he showed up at the scene in his city-issued vehicle and reported to the command post shortly after.

Dover’s initial text was sent after an alert had gone out asking off-duty SPFD personnel to “backfill” at the fire station, as crews were providing mutual aid and battling a large fire at a north San Antonio apartment complex in the 24200 block of Wilderness Oak.

Dover told Shavano Park city council late last month that he was assigned by the incident commander to a sector commander role, in charge of monitoring crews.

None of the crews were inside the building actively fighting the fire while Dover was on scene, he told council.

Dover also told council he stayed at the scene until the fire was extinguished around 2 a.m. and then returned home.

“It’s been eating me up that you made this decision.”

A captain with SPFD confronted Dover after the incident via email, telling the chief he had put the captain’s career on the line by showing up at the fire, records obtained by KSAT through a public information request show.

“It’s been eating me up that you made this decision and my biggest problem is you’ve put me in a position where I have to confront my chief. If this were to come out some other way I would be just as culpable for doing nothing with what I know,” wrote Captain Tom Grose.

Dover denies being impaired or intoxicated

Dover, when self-reporting the incident to Shavano Park officials and in his public statement to city council last month, denied that he was impaired or intoxicated on the scene.

In a Sept. 6 memo to City Manager Bill Hill, Dover wrote that he had consumed “3-4 beers” earlier in the day and had consumed his last beer more than five hours before responding to the fire.

Dover wrote that he “self-assessed” himself around 9:20 p.m. and believed he was not under the influence of alcohol or any way impaired, the memo states.

He said he conducted the self-assessment after hearing on his department-issued radio it was a large fire that crews were having difficulty gaining control over.

On Sept. 7, Hill issued Dover developmental counseling because of the incident, telling the chief “your actions no doubt may be perceived as in violation or at best questionable” and that Dover had shown “poor judgment.”

The counseling form also instructed Dover to revise SPFD’s policy on drugs and alcohol, which does not appear to currently provide a clear timeline on how much time must pass after a firefighter consumes alcohol before he or she can come to work.

Hill told KSAT via telephone this week Dover made a mistake but he retains full confidence in the chief’s leadership and abilities.

“I do acknowledge how this may be perceived and I admit that I may not have used the best judgment in explaining to myself during my text with Capt. Grose or in my conversations with Lt. Fennell at the active fire scene,” Dover told council during his formal apology Nov. 27.

Hill forwarded a Nov. 15 press statement from the Bexar-Bulverde Volunteer Fire Department, the agency in charge of the fire scene, stating that Dover did not exhibit any signs of impairment while at the scene.

Hill declined to make Dover available for an interview for this story, telling KSAT the chief is not permitted to discuss city business with the media.

Dover hired by Shavano Park in January 2019 after resigning as chief of the Castle Hills Fire Department.

About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.