Heated Debate Over Volunteer Fire Fighters, Extinguished?

By: Sandra Osborne Email
By: Sandra Osborne Email

There's been a heated fight in Walton County over volunteer fire fighters.
Some volunteers say they've been forced to sit on the sideline and watch fires burn, but a meeting Monday may have put out the flames for now.

Argyle volunteer Fire Chief Jonathan Day says his crew has been asked to sit out at multiple fire scenes, even when there was a need for extra hands.

"We've had other departments called in while we've stood there and they went passed up and into the fire," said Day.

The chief says, a fire in Defuniak Springs Sunday night, which destroyed a home, was the last straw.

He claims members of his team showed up prepared to work, but the paid fire fighters allegedly wouldn't let them help, saying the volunteers didn't have the right certifications.

"He replied, 'Are you fire one or fire two?' The fire fighter said he was fire one and his reply was 'You can't do anything."

The house on North 5th Street was fully engulfed in flames when the volunteers arrived on scene.
They say, if they would've been able to help, they could've provided some relief to the other fire fighters.

"We stood in one spot for over an hour and never got to do anything while other fire fighters were coming in and out, changing their bottles, going back in," said Chief Day.

The training classification isn't the only reason they've been asked to sit out, Day says they are sometimes told there are liability issues or regulation concerns.

"We're qualified to do the job and we just want to help the community."

The Fire Chief says the meetings Monday with Defuniak Springs and Walton County have helped iron out some of the issues.

They're now going to try and find better ways of communicating.

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