Volunteer firefighters in Ragley voice concerns

Ragley firefighters voice concerns

RAGLEY, LA (KPLC) - George Leeds, a volunteer firefighter with the Ragley Fire department says he was wrongfully suspended after he submitted a letter of complaint to the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal.

In the letter, Leeds voices concerns about outdated fire equipment and faulty gear along with other issues he feels that have taken place within the department.

Leeds has served as a volunteer firefighter with the department for the Meadow Village station in Ragley for more than 2 years. He and two other current and former volunteer firefighters say there are a number of issues that need attention.

"I wrote a letter to the state fire marshal's office about safety issues here and other problems," said Leeds. "We have a lot of issues with fire gear here because our fire gear is no good, my gear is falling apart."

Members of Beauregard Parish Fire District #2 were set to meet with George to discuss the suspension at a special board meeting last Thursday. However, George claims the board never showed up.

"It really hurts that they had to suspend somebody who was speaking up for the community and our fire department for them to realize that things need to be fixed, It should have never come down to that," said George.

7News reached out to Beauregard District 2 fire chief, Wayne Baggett regarding the allegations. He says the motives behind the letter are unjustified. Baggett calls many of the accusations in the letter untrue.

"He was not suspended, he called the chief of the station and said that his lawyer advised him to turn in his keys and gear," said Baggett. When the chief told me this, I told him to call that firefighter back and he was off the department until whatever he's got going on with his lawyer is resolved."

As for comments made about failing equipment, Chief Baggett says the process for receiving new gear doesn't happen overnight. He says all of the adult firefighter uniforms have yet to reach their expiration date.

He says the only expired uniforms within the department belong to junior firefighters who just turned 18.

"There's a chain of command that has to be followed; those with complaints must go to the station chief, the district chief and then the board. It should never go to the police jury. He decided to take it on his own and go to the police jury with it. Our secretary pulled up the receipts and everything had been done on the truck. We still don't know what his complaint is."

Chief Baggett says the reason the board did not show up for Thursday's meeting was that the police jury decided to hold it the day before. He says those changes were posted at the entrance of the fire station.

Since taking over as district chief 3 years ago, Baggett says the district has worked hard to improve the department. Residents recently saw a drop in their fire insurance rating after the district's protection grading went from a class 6 to a class 5, marking the first time the district has seen an improvement of this magnitude in over 20 years.

Overall, the firefighters say they love their job but they feel changes must be made.

"We're not on the fire department for what we want, we're on the department for where we live and to serve the people that live here."

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