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WSAZ INVESTIGATES: Fire Department Violations

By: Brooks Jarosz Email
By: Brooks Jarosz Email

KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A fire department is feeling the heat after major safety and training flaws were exposed.

It's a WSAZ.com exclusive investigation that raises very serious concerns about your safety during an emergency.

A formal complaint was filed this week against the Cabin Creek Volunteer Fire Department. However, those firefighters are not the only ones being criticized.

Cabin Creek VFD is just one of six departments in West Virginia accused of violating state code. Many people may find several of the deficiencies downright shocking.

"They meet nothing in the compliance area that is required by the West Virginia State Fire Commission," state fire marshal Sterling Lewis said.

Inspecting and keeping fire departments in check is the responsibility of the state fire marshal's office. WSAZ.com uncovered a pile of paperwork pointing to Cabin Creek volunteer firefighters who are not trained or certified.

Our investigation found Cabin Creek VFD failed to comply three separate times during the course of 10 months -- the most recent in January.

All firefighters are required to earn at least 90 hours in Firefighter One training. However, out of 18 active firefighters, we found only seven are certified. In first aid and CPR, zero of the firefighters are trained, and none are Officer One trained either, with that being the very basic course.

"If I let individuals go into a burning structure and they don't have the training that's required by the State Fire Commission, not only are they putting others in jeopardy, they're putting their fire department liable, and they're putting the fire chief or the incident commander liable," Lewis said. "You know, these are things that should not happen."

WSAZ.com's Brooks Jarosz drove to the department in Eskdale to get answers. One firefighter showed his CPR and first-aid card, as well as his class training certificates. All of those hours were earned following a previous warning in April, according to the issue dates.

While the assistant chief refused to go on camera, he told us many other firefighters are now training. And those who aren't, just don't have the time, he said.

WSAZ.com found if the laws are not followed, the fire department could lose $44,000 in state funding. That is why the state is lighting a fire to fix a pattern of noncompliance.

"There's absolutely no excuse for a firefighter if they've been on that department for six months or a year -- not to have a Level One firefighter training," Lewis said.

We checked in with the Kanawha County fire coordinator. He says they're working with Cabin Creek VFD and training is happening now, and has been for some time.

The county also provides more than $20,000 to Cabin Creek VFD, and it does not intend to pull any funding. It only wants to help the firefighters get the training they need.

It's important to note that departments across the state have similar violations. Since Cabin Creek VFD just got the formal complaint letter this week, it has been given 30 days to respond. If the state fire commission doesn't like the department's answer or if it fails to respond, a hearing will be held to look for solutions.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.


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