Former CAL FIRE Battalion Chief pleads not guilty to murder

Orville Fleming
Orville Fleming

A former Battalion Chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection pleaded not guilty Monday to murdering his live-in companion. An instructor at the agency’s training academy at Ione, California, 55-year old Battalion Chief Orville Fleming had been charged in the May 1 stabbing death of 26-year old Sarah Jane Douglas. The plea was in spite of having earlier “admitted culpability in the stabbing”, according to Sheriff Scott Jones.

After the murder Mr. Fleming ditched his CAL FIRE truck and disappeared but was found 16 days later when he left his hideout near his home and boarded a bus to obtain food.

When he did not show up for work for five days, he was fired from his $130,000 a year Battalion Chief job. Earlier in his career he was a firefighter with the city of Madera for three years when the city contracted with CAL FIRE for fire protection. He was promoted to fire captain in 2001 and to battalion chief in 2012.

UPDATE: In July, 2015, Mr. Fleming was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.

Read more about the capture of Mr. Fleming.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.