The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

April 16, 2011

Ronceverte VFD forced to suspend operations

The state fire marshal has issued a cease and desist order, forcing the Ronceverte Volunteer Fire Department to halt all emergency activities, city administrator Pamela Stevens confirmed.

Issued Monday, the order fulfills a warning Fire Marshal Sterling Lewis Jr. mailed to the VFD last month advising that state law prohibits emergency service organizations from employing or being associated with anyone who has been convicted of a felony.

According to Lewis’ letter, Casey Morgan, whom the Ronceverte firefighters voted to be the department’s chief, was once convicted of grand larceny.

At the time, Lewis wrote, “Immediate removal of this individual from association with your department is necessary.”

Because of the fire marshal’s letter, the Ronceverte City Council vetoed Morgan’s election, but Lewis’ dispute with the fire department continues.

Stevens said Friday, “Right now, our citizens are covered for fire protection. Lewisburg and Fairlea have entered into a temporary fire protection agreement with the city.”

The temporary arrangement is good for 30 days.

“From what I understand, (the VFD is) entitled to a hearing on the issues that led to the order being issued,” Stevens said.

Stevens said she does not know if the VFD plans to appeal the fire marshal’s decision.

“We’re kind of in limbo right now,” Stevens said. “We hope for a quick and amicable resolution to this issue, but we are talking about contingencies beyond the 30-day temporary agreement.”

A reporter’s attempts to reach Morgan and VFD President Ralph Bonner by telephone Friday afternoon were unsuccessful.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com

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