Firefighters asked to turn in their gear

SIPSEY — The Sipsey Town Council took action related to the fire department at a called meeting on Wednesday afternoon. After an executive session, the council came back and approved two motions, with the first one appointing Judson “Jud” Allen, the city’s legal council, to handle media relations regarding the Sipsey Volunteer Fire and Rescue department. The second motion also appointed Allen to send letters to the whole fire department, telling the members to turn their gear in to the Town of Sipsey. Mayor Jerry Saddler was absent from the meeting due to a car accident, according to Mayor Pro-Tem Brenda Ramsey Robinson. In Saddler’s absence, Robinson led the meeting. This action comes in the wake of last week’s incident in which several firefighters broke into the station while attempting to run a call. Sipsey’s fire chief was replaced last week as a result of this incident. Heather Adams, who had served as fire chief since January, confirmed her suspension to the Daily Mountain Eagle on Thursday, Nov. 23. Adams said she received a call from Saddler on Wednesday, Nov. 22 informing her that she, assistant fire chief Rodney Morgan and volunteer firefighter Matthew McGrain had been suspended for breaking into the fire department on Monday. “He told us to turn in our gear and radios, without any further explanation,” Adams said. “I wasn’t even in town when all of this happened. I was out of town working. I was in Louisiana.”

Adams confirmed that the new chief is Sonny Aaron, whom she replaced in January. Adams said firefighters ran one call on Monday, Nov. 20, without incident, but were unable to access the fire station after being notified of a possible structure fire. “The padlocks on the fire station doors had been changed,” Adams said. “Our guys contacted the Walker County Sheriff’s Office and a deputy responded to the fire station. The guys said he handed them a sledgehammer and told them, in the best interest of the community, to break the lock and get what they needed to run the fire call.” Firefighters were able to retrieve the trucks from the station and run the call, which turned out to be a woods fire. Adams said this is not the first time for members of the Sipsey Fire Department to be in conflict with the mayor and town council. In a message distributed to several media outlets on the afternoon of Nov. 22, Adams described having difficulty getting money to purchase supplies such as toilet paper, garbage bags, paper towels and cleaning supplies. Adams detailed other problems getting fuel and parts for the department’s fire trucks as well as for equipment. According to Adams, she has asked for new batteries for the department’s AEDs since August. “And we’ve ran four calls with patients down and not breathing since then. Peoples’ lives depend on us having the proper equipment to run a call,” Adams said Nov. 23.