Starks volunteer firefighters and fire chief quit over internal issues

Starks volunteer firefighters and fire chief quit over internal issues
(Source: Maranda Whittington/KPLC)

STARKS, LA (KPLC) - Starks residents reached out to 7News  again with concerns about their community's volunteer fire department.

Back in September the fire chief and firefighters walked out of a board meeting but kept working for the department.

Now months later the fire chief and multiple firefighters have decided to quit.

"All of this could have been resolved prior to it even getting to this point had our initial issues been addressed," said former assistant fire chief, Travis Odom.

For almost six years Odom worked as a firefighter for the Starks Volunteer Fire Department, but Monday he decided to leave.

"We're having internal turmoil's again trying to go further with the department... move it further ahead," he said.

Issues, he says,  involving members of the department's board of commissioners led him to quit, but he wasn't alone. The department's other assistant fire chief, William Hollie also left Monday.

"You ask for something and no…I mean it's like hitting a brick wall," said Hollie. "It shouldn't be that way."

Both men say the majority of the fire department left after fire chief Corey Blanchard officially resigned last Wednesday.

Blanchard declined to talk on camera but did say his reasons for leaving were also because of internal issues.

Back in September Blanchard and other firefighters walked out of a board meeting where they were discussing a stipend and a take-home vehicle for the chief. 
But Blanchard and other firefighters 7News spoke with all say that wasn't why he chose to leave.

"It's the inner turmoil," said Odom. "(The) fact that we're meeting solid resistance in anything we try to do. We just don't have the support and trust that we think we should have of our board members."

The men say the majority of the department is gone.

7News reached out to the board of commissioners president Willard White who declined to speak on camera but says Starks does have an active fire department and has already appointed a new fire chief.

While the former chief and firefighters say they love what they do, they won't come back until something changes.

"Once that's over, I don't have any doubt that the majority of the individuals that walked out would more than happily walk back in that day and resume where we left off," said Odom.

7News  did reach out to the State Fire Marshal's office about whether a volunteer fire chief can receive a stipend or a take-home vehicle. They said that decision is strictly up to the local governing body.

When 7News  asked White about it he said because of the way the millage is set up they wouldn't be allowed to give the fire chief a stipend at this time.

Copyright 2018 KPLC. All rights reserved.