Keith Macy, Jonesville Fire Department’s chief, handed a letter of resignation to town council members during a closed session following Monday’s town meeting. Macy has served in the volunteer position of chief of the department since 2001.
“Unfortunately, I can confirm (Macy’s resignation) is true,” said Jonesville Town Manager Scott Buffkin.
Although Macy will continue to volunteer at the fire department, he now steps down from the role of chief and will serve as a volunteer firefighter.
“We absolutely appreciate Keith Macy’s years of service to the fire department,” said Buffkin.
Macy said potential personal liability and lack of support for the fire department are two reasons for his resignation.
He became aware of potential personal liability after completing the Fire Chief 101 class required of North Carolina fire chiefs for the fire department to be certified with a 9S rating. North Carolina fire departments must meet requirements to be certified with this rating for insurance grading purposes.
“If something was to happen, if something was to go wrong on a fire call, I could be held responsible,” Macy said. “For example, if I have an officer from maintenance and (the officer) doesn’t get the oil changed, I’m responsible. Anything that goes on, I’m responsible. Or, if someone didn’t like how something went (during a call), I’m responsible.
“I could walk away with nothing,” he said. “Pretty much, my house and everything I’ve worked for over the years could be gone over something trivial.”
He said if a lawsuit were filed against the department, “They would name the town in the suit and come down, naming me in the suit as well.”
Macy said if something happened during a fire call, such as a death, he could also be held criminally liable. Macy learned of this during the class and said, if an incident occurred and he were to be held criminally liable, he could face jail time.
“I got to thinking about what it is worth to me, and I realized it just wasn’t worth the risk,” he said.
Macy said he is also resigning “due to the citizens of Jonesville not supporting the fire department by coming to volunteer.”
At several recent town meetings during his departmental report, Macy has communicated the fire department’s dire need for volunteers to the town board and meeting attendees.
At the July town meeting, Macy said, “I’m still having a personnel issue. No one is wanting to volunteer their time. I’ve got to maintain a minimum of 20 people active and trained. I don’t know how to go about getting personnel, but if we don’t see something within 12 months, the state will come in and say we aren’t protected anymore.”
According to the N.C. Office of State Fire Marshal website, at http://ncdoi.com/OSFA, the 9S rating provides for the eligibility of the department’s personnel to participate in the Fireman’s Pension Fund and the Firemen’s Death Benefit Act and the fire department’s participation in the Firemen’s Relief Fund.
The “S” attached to the nine classification designates that fire department as having met the current, minimum standards for a rated class 9 or split 9 fire department in North Carolina, according to the website.
Under the personnel section of the 9S rating requirements, a fire department must have a minimum of 20 personnel with 18 designated as firefighters and two as traffic personnel, or the department must show documentation that averages of 12 firefighters have responded to each of the previous 20 structure fires.
Macy said during the July meeting that if the department does not meet certification requirements for the 9S rating, insurance rates for the area businesses could increase.
While the Jonesville Fire Department has gained three new recruits since the July meeting, the general lack of support and lack of volunteers have contributed to his decision to resign from the chief position, Macy said.
“The way I left it (in the closed session) was I dropped down to just a firefighter,” Macy said.
“I had spoken with (Macy) at the end of last week, and he had indicated (resigning) was his intention,” said Buffkin. “It’s all so soon, and the town council hasn’t had the opportunity to sit down and discuss his resignation. We’ll be working on getting a new chief or interim chief very soon, and we’ll take the action necessary for the community’s best interests.”