Thwarted by county, OVVER to support new fire district

Monday, April 3, 2006

RUDD -- The Osage Valley Volunteer Emergency Responders, otherwise known as OVVER, have decided to support residents looking into forming an additional fire district rather than pushing the South Carroll County Fire Department to accept their assistance with medical services.

Marvelle Stines, treasurer of OVVER, said "people on the west side of Ark. Hwy. 21 and in the area of Crystal Mountain don't know that right now, they have no medical personnel to respond to them at all.

"If someone were to have a heart attack, stroke, be in a diabetic comma, or have a traffic accident, it would not be a good thing.

"The community needs to be aware that they've had their services cut."

The Responders are comprised of 13 former members and two former board members of the SCCFD who resigned in February 2005 in protest of decisions made by its board of directors.

However, the "straw that broke the camel's back" had to do with a decision about a donated fire truck from the Green Forest Fire Department, said Harold Logan, president of the SCCFD board.

Logan said the board rejected the acceptance of the truck, then it surfaced in their fire department before it was transferred. "When it disappeared, we thought they had returned it, but then Green Forest contacted me to see where the truck was, and we found it in a shed."

However, Stines stated "the truck had been on display at the annual Fire Department barbeque, then it was moved to the third substation offered to SCCFD and accepted by the County. It was later moved to the shed to be picked up by the Green Forest Fire Department.

"In addition, the board had told us that we could use the truck, but if we didn't want to use it the board would then sell it to provide us with another newer truck -- but this truck was 12 years newer than anything we had."

Former SCCFD Chief Lee Roy Duncan stated in a letter that "The SCCFA board had told me in January, (after two years of using the truck) that we were not to use the truck and return it to GFFD we responded to a fire that we did not have an adequate water supply to contain and protect our firefighters. I did not feel comfortable as chief asking the firefighters to endanger their lives knowing the only option available to get the needed water would have been to ask for water from the GFFD as the closest mutual aid."

Soon after the fire, a SCCFA board meeting was held to discuss the issue, but Stines said firefighters were not allowed to speak unless they agreed to stay in the department, at which point they turned in their gear.

"They made it final and with no further discussion, by changing the locks on the fire house doors the following morning," stated Stines. "We left with a combined total of 100 years experience as firefighters and first responders."

She said OVVER members did not want to go public with the reasons for resigning from the SCCFD because they had wanted to assist them, but now they felt as if it was inevitable.

County Attorney Scott Jackson responded to the request of OVVER members wanting to assist in medical situations by replying:

"The state statute states that the responsibility for providing emergency service right now is the responsibility of the fire district board," said Jackson.

"Basically, it all came down to whether Logan wanted us to be toned out to emergencies," said Stines, "and he feels like we took our toys and went home and didn't think they would survive without us. That is not the case as they would not even allow us to discuss our concerns or allow us to offer to help in any way except under their terms."

According to Stines, Logan had resigned his position on the SCCFD board during a public meeting, only to return the same night and be elected back as president.

Logan in return blames the former SCCFD firefighters for the controversy.

"They are the ones creating the whole problem," said Logan. "Those people walked off, they're the ones to blame, and we'll be on line shortly with our own first responders."

Of the 16 OVVER members, there are four nationally registered first responders, which requires over 80 hours of training, four EMT-Basic, and three EMT-Intermediate, as well as one Paramedic, and a medical director. "We have been working together as volunteer medical responders and volunteer firefighters for as long as 15 years," said Stines

Logan said OVVER's medical services were not needed because they would have trained first responders "probably by May.

"They will not come back and have us be responsible for their actions," said Logan.

At a Tuesday meeting, OVVER members decided to join with residents to help support an additional fire district, which will be funded privately, with no cost to the taxpayers. "

"We will propose two stations and possibly three," said Stines. "One at the south end of Crystal Mountain, and two others somewhere along the south Ark. Hwy. 21 corridor towards U.S. Hwy. 412."

A community meeting will be held for residents to "voice their support," in the future, although the date and time have not yet been set.

"It's a shame," said Stines, "that we have to provide two entities, rather than work together to provide the emergency services on a volunteer basis that South Carroll County residents deserve."

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