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Hillsborough fire chief arrested in domestic dispute

Fire Chief Bill Nesmith was accused of threatening his wife’s life.

Fire Chief Bill Nesmith was accused of threatening his wife’s life.

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Chief Bill Nesmith was arrested after he threatened to shoot his wife and himself, according to Pinellas County authorities.

Nesmith, 59, denied making the threat but was arrested on an aggravated domestic assault charge, according to a sheriff's report. Records show he was booked into the Pinellas County Jail at 12:06 a.m. Sunday and his bail was set at $5,000.

A deputy responded to Nesmith's home Saturday about 9:50 p.m. on a domestic violence call, according to an arrest report.

Nesmith allegedly assaulted his wife with a "deadly weapon," the report said. The report did not indicate where the incident took place.

Nesmith owns a revolver and a semiautomatic handgun, which deputies seized during the arrest.

The report said Nesmith's wife feared for her life and left home, thinking her husband would follow through on his threat.

She didn't know whether the guns were in the house when Nesmith allegedly made the threat, but she assumed he was going to get a gun when he went into the couple's bedroom, the report said.

Hillsborough Fire Rescue Capt. Bruce Delk said Sunday night he had not spoken with Nesmith since his arrest, but said the chief had been bailed out of jail. Nesmith has not been placed on leave, Delk said.

"He was charged with aggravated assault domestic. He wasn't convicted," Delk said. "If that occurs, then we'll deal with whatever happens. Our policy has been, in the past, that people work as normal until they're convicted of something."

Nesmith could not be reached.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Rose Ferlita said Nesmith should be placed on administrative leave.

"Regardless of whether he's guilty or not, it's a serious charge," she said.

Ferlita said she knew nothing of Nesmith's personal life, but was surprised to hear Hillsborough's fire chief was living in Pinellas County.

Nesmith has served as the Hillsborough County fire chief since October 1996. He spent more than 24 years with Tampa Fire Rescue before retiring as a division chief and joining Hillsborough Fire Rescue in 1994 as an assistant chief.

Nesmith is the current past president of the Florida Fire Chief's Association and he has served as an instructor for basic firefighter certification and management level courses through Hillsborough Community College.

Times staff writers Rita Farlow and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this story. Kevin Graham can be reached at or (813) 226-3433.

Hillsborough fire chief arrested in domestic dispute 03/02/08 [Last modified: Sunday, March 2, 2008 10:30pm]
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