Volunteer insurance still unclear

Published 9:41 pm Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Four days after volunteer firefighters in the city were notified they cannot respond to calls because of an issue with an insurance policy, city officials still are not clear on whether the policy has been reinstated.

“I am hoping that I will have some positive information to report before I go home today,” city spokeswoman Debbie George wrote in an emailed response to questions about 3:45 p.m. At 9:30 p.m., George said the city was still working on the issue, and that city leaders had met with the volunteer chiefs on Sunday.

George, who handles all communication between the press and city staff, also by Tuesday had become the spokesperson for Suffolk’s volunteer fire agencies.

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Both Holland VFD Chief Mark Ellis and Whaleyville VFD Chief Charles Brothers Jr. referred questions about the issue to George on Tuesday.

Brothers and George both had confirmed on Friday that there was a problem with the city’s workman’s compensation policy covering volunteer firefighters.

George said Friday an “issue” had resulted in the city’s workman’s compensation insurance for volunteers being canceled. No other groups were affected, she said. That cancellation meant that volunteer firefighters would not be covered under the city’s insurance if they got hurt working a fire. Therefore, the volunteers were told they could not respond to city fires or even work in the stations until the matter had been resolved.

George said Friday that the city’s paid firefighters would be able to cover the gaps left by the missing volunteers.

Still, a Peanut Drive structure fire on Monday resulted in volunteers from the Carrsville Department in Isle of Wight County having to cover the Holland station.

But George said it is commonplace for Holland and Carrsville to backfill for each other.

“It is routine for Carrsville to backfill the Holland Station whenever the station responds to a fire, as we do the same for them,” George wrote in an email.