LAKE WACCAMAW, NC (WECT) – Insurance rates could soon go up for homeowners in Lake Waccamaw, since inspectors with the State Fire Marshal's Office closed the fire department in the area Tuesday.
The SFMO said it has received several complaints from concerned citizens and firefighters over the past few weeks in regards to the fire department.
According to a spokesperson for the office, state inspectors tried talking about the issues with town officials over the phone, but said they weren't getting complete information.
An inspector toured the fire department in Lake Waccamaw Tuesday and discovered several personnel and training records were missing.
According to Mayor Daniel Hilburn, the department's roster wasn't up to date and some equipment didn't reach standards.
A spokesperson for the SFMO said there have been three calls the department didn't respond to over the past few weeks, though the calls could have been for anything and not necessarily anything major.
The fire station in Lake Waccamaw once had a six fire rating and after the inspection it went up to a ten – the lower the number, the better.
The spokesperson said the state is usually willing to work with fire departments, so it's unusual for a department to lose its certification.
The state is in touch with the county's fire marshal, who's trying to develop a plan with neighboring towns to provide coverage for Lake Waccamaw.
The spokeswoman added the town will need to pass an inspection in order to be re-certified. Hilburn said the new fire chief hopes to fix the problems and have the fire department reopen early in 2014.
Homeowner insurance rates will likely go up since there's not a fire department in town, but the spokesperson was uncertain how much it would increase.
The fire department's closing comes during a time when several volunteer firefighters are threatening to quit and seek legal action against town officials.
Volunteer firefighters Lynn Worrell and her husband Shannon say they were banned after raising concerns about a fire chief town officials appointed last month.
"I've never seen him, Mr. Jerry Gore on a fire call. He's never been on a fire call with us, He hasn't attended fire training with us," said Worrell. "So as firemen, we already put our ourselves on the line. For him to come in and be the chief we would like to for him to have some training as well. So if we get in a bind, we need to know he's there for us."
The ban prevented them from helping with rescue calls.
"That means when we get a rescue call, we have to get up with someone who is not banned from town property, have them go in the building, and bring us an ambulance out," said Worrell. "So we can meet them at the road and go answer our calls."
According to Worrell, that hasn't caused a delay in rescue calls because there are other qualified volunteer firefighters. But she does say, if she, her husband and former Chief Eddy Morgan aren't allowed to go on town property to respond to calls much longer, they could sue town officials.
"I'm sure. It would be a group of the auxiliary and there's a large group of us who have been meeting," said Worrell. "We'll all come together and decide as a group."
1720 Valley View Drive