No volunteers

Published 11:13 pm Friday, June 4, 2010

Paid firefighters, rather than volunteers, will be responding to emergency calls in Suffolk until an issue with insurance is resolved.

The city’s workman’s compensation policy that covers Suffolk’s volunteer firefighters in Holland, Whaleyville, Driver and Chuckatuck was allowed to lapse, Whaleyville VFD Chief Charles H. Brothers Jr. confirmed on Friday.

“For some reason unbeknown to anybody, the city has let the workman’s comp policy lapse,” Brothers said. He says the chiefs of all four volunteer departments were notified around noon Friday that they could not respond to any calls until the issue is resolved.

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City spokeswoman Debbie George also confirmed in a brief, emailed response to questions that there was a problem with the insurance policy. No other employees or groups are affected, she said.

“We have learned today of an issue with the Workman’s Comp insurance policy which covers Suffolk’s volunteer firefighters,” George wrote. “We have been advised by our insurance carrier that we have to restrict the use of the volunteer firefighters for their protection.”

George said there would be no reduction of service. She did not know what was the issue with the policy or how long it would take to resolve.

Brothers said he sent a text message to his volunteers telling them of the situation. The four volunteer fire departments have a total of roughly 100 active members.

“I am waiting for acknowledgement from the city,” Brothers said. “Whether that will happen today, I don’t know. It’s kind of aggravating.”

George said the city is working to reinstate the policy.

“This matter has been given highest priority by the City Manager,” she wrote. “We value the service of our volunteer firefighters and we are working diligently with our insurance carrier to resolve this matter.”