The two assistant chiefs who rejoined the Jonesville Fire Department Monday evening said they do their jobs and, together, have at least 50 years of firefighting experience.
Their comments come in response to statements made in the Wednesday edition of The Tribune by Heather Macy, who resigned as the department’s medical lieutenant Tuesday.
“This whole thing started when Lindbergh Swaim (town mayor and interim chief of the fire department) called and asked if I would come back,” said Hal Simpson, one of the assistant chiefs. “I said I would come back if Cory Price would come back with me.”
Simpson said he and Price, the other assistant chief, met with Swaim prior to the town meeting Monday and collected their gear. He said they met the new members of the fire department also on Monday.
“It was a bit frightening to come back and see many (of the new members) cannot even hold a hose,” Simpson said. “I specifically asked them if they’ve sprayed water, which means trained with water, and they said no. Looking at the (roster), there are very few that can run a pump. We knew we had a lot of rebuilding to do.”
Simpson returns to the Jonesville Fire Department with nine years of experience with the department and 35 years of experience altogether with various fire departments, including many years full-time with the Chicago Fire Department. Simpson is also CPR-certified and certified for advanced cardiac life support and pediatric advanced life support.
Price returns to the Jonesville Fire Department with 16 years of experience with the department. He said he joined when he was 16.
“Cory and I left simply because it became the ‘Macy fire department,’” said Simpson.
Macy said she tried to avoid making it seem that way.
“Cory, Hal and I had a difference of opinions on many things, so I decided to make myself scarce for a while to keep from making it seem like the ‘Macy fire department,’” Macy said. “For three years, I stopped coming as much. I figured, well, if I’m not around, maybe they won’t feel that way. I ended up having to come back and participate more when they left.”
In Wednesday’s edition of The Tribune, Macy said, “From working with (Simpson and Price) previously, I know I cannot work with them. In the past, they couldn’t assume their responsibilities.”
“When we were active members of the department, we ran as many calls as everyone else, if not more,” said Simpson of himself and Price.
“Heather was a lieutenant, a medical lieutenant, and we were line officers,” Simpson said of the time when he and Price were previously in the assistant chief positions. “I can’t tell you the number of times we asked her to do something, and it was shrugged off.”
“I was expecting this kind of reaction,” Macy said. “If they had a problem with me, they didn’t address it with me. As far as running calls, the proof is in the paperwork. They both had job changes. Cory was gone a lot of the time on weekends, and he couldn’t attend as many calls.”
“It was not the fact that we weren’t doing our jobs, because we were in there doing it every day,” said Simpson. “It’s not the fact that we don’t have the experience. Cory can run an engine better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Simpson and Price said they have both received several awards regarding their service. Simpson said he had also won “Officer of the Year” in the past.
“‘Officer of the Year’ doesn’t just come handed to you,” he said.
Simpson said he extended an offer to return to the department four months ago to Keith Macy, chief of the department at the time. He said he was invited back not as an assistant chief, but as a firefighter. He noted, as a firefighter, he would have answered to line officers, Heather and Keith Macy and the assistant chief.
“I’m sure however Hal said that happened is probably how it happened, and I’m sure Keith said, because of how Hal had done in the past, that he could come back as a firefighter,” said Heather Macy.
“I wasn’t certain who would be in the command position,” Simpson said, noting he chose not to return as a firefighter.
Regarding the assistant chief, Simpson said, “Cory and I have no idea if he’s had any previous fire experience.”
Keith Macy and the assistant chief both resigned from the chief and assistant chief positions on Aug. 8. Heather Macy resigned from her position as medical lieutenant with the department on Tuesday. Keith Macy is currently serving as a firefighter with the department.
“Keith Macy is an excellent firefighter,” said Simpson. “There’s no question about that.”
He said the state requires the department to hold monthly business and monthly officers meetings, and that since he and Price left the department, those meetings have not been held as required by the state.
“Those meetings are to be recorded for the state to review,” he said. Simpson also said Keith Macy, as chief, counted the town meetings as the business meetings.
Heather Macy said she was unaware of town meetings being counted as business meetings.
She said, “You can’t have meetings if people don’t show up. We did everything we could, but you can’t make them come. We tried different things and nothing ever worked.”
Simpson said he and Price told Swaim they could increase the membership, and he said they have already heard from previous members.
“We have heard from several individuals, past members, that are willing to come back now that the situation is changing,” Simpson said.
“I understand the town council is concerned with the department and is considering a merger with Arlington (Fire Department), which may be a good thing, but we’re going to do everything in our power to get membership up,” he continued. “It’s being worked on as we speak.”
Simpson said that when he and Price served as assistant chiefs previously, the number of firefighters in the department held steady around 25.
Currently, the department, which was at 14 members prior to Heather Macy’s resignation, is at 13 members, or 15, including the two reinstated assistant chiefs, Simpson and Price.
In reference to Heather Macy running 67 percent of the calls last month, Simpson said the majority of those calls were medical calls.
“I currently would have to get re-certified with the Yadkin County EMS to run those calls,” he said. “But, our first responders and EMTs have assured me, knowing Heather stepped down, they will be on scene to assist us with those calls. Knowing the people as well as I do, I know they will do their best to be on scene.”