In a packed house at the Anderson County Fire Department, citizens of Starr expressed their disgust at the suspension of their fire chief, Gary Shaw, one of his captains and his son, a volunteer firefighter.
"You've made us a laughing stock," one citizen said to Anderson County fire commissioners.
The trio was suspended earlier in January after they used a truck to escort Santa Claus in a community Christmas parade Dec. 7. Anderson County fire officials said they broke county rules by using the truck and by allowing a person dressed as Santa to ride on the truck bed. They said it is a safety and insurance issue.
However, the rules and regulations say no one, civilian or firefighter, is allowed to ride on the outside or on top of a fire truck, and Starr residents argue the truck they used is not a fire truck. They say they purchased the brush truck to help fight grass fires, and they say they purchased it with fundraiser money, not tax funds.
The county, however, maintains the truck was uninsured and therefore is county property. And since it is county property, they said, county rules and regulations apply.
Furious citizens advocated for the suspended firefighters, who are on leave for 90 days. Citizens said the fire department is now understaffed and needs more manpower.
"I feel overloaded," said Gregg Campbell, Starr's assistant fire chief.
Anderson County Fire Commission Chief Glenn Holliday said the decision was purely for safety reasons, but citizens accused him of orchestrating a political vendetta to oust Shaw just before the election, which was set for the 23rd.
"My main purpose of it was safety," said Holliday. "Come at my all you want, but my main concern was for people."
"We did not mean to break any rules," Campbell said.
The fire and safety commissioners deliberated for 45 minutes in executive session but made no decision on the issue and defended their reasons for suspending the three.
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