Blacksburg fire chief addresses sign controversy - FOX Carolina 21

Blacksburg fire chief addresses sign controversy

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The sign in question after it was changed to "grateful" Wednesday. (April 16, 2014/FOX Carolina) The sign in question after it was changed to "grateful" Wednesday. (April 16, 2014/FOX Carolina)

The chief of the Blacksburg Volunteer Fire Dept. is under fire after a posting a quote on the fire station's marquee downtown.

The statement read, "We the willing, led by the unknowing, continue to do to the impossible, for the ungrateful."

The sign changed slightly Wednesday morning, but not before causing a whole load of controversy among the town's residents.

"It was not meant to imply anything with anything," Chief Cline Gore told FOX Carolina, adding that the quote was taken out of context. "People can twist and distort to whatever (their) personal beliefs (are)."

Some did take offense to it, and called it an embarrassment.  

"'Ungrateful'. The people of the town of Blacksburg that are ungrateful? Come on, the taxpayers of this town are the ones that fund this fire department," said Scott Patterson, who saw the sign.

Patterson owns a wrecker service a couple of blocks up the road from the fire station, and his brother is on the town council. He said he is helping lead an effort to force changes at the department.

The sign, as of Wednesday afternoon, is largely the same, but with one key difference - "ungrateful" has been changed to "grateful." 

The quote, in its original form, has been reported to have been said by everyone from Mother Teresa to a French soldier - but it's not the full quote. The quote goes onto say, "We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing."

Gore said it is also an old fire department saying, but added that the "do anything with nothing" credo has been exactly what the department has been dealing with lately.

"We were drastically cut," said Gore.

He said the fire station was hit with a large budget cut that hit multiple town departments, with the amount of money they got from the town cut in half.  He added that with cuts like that, it could affect response times and could even prevent them from responding to emergencies.

"Our core responsibility is to fire protection, wrecks and rescue," said Gore. "We're going to focus on that. To do that, we might have to have other agencies re-assume their responsibilities to remove wear and tear and to have manpower available in emergencies."

Town officials confirmed the cuts, but said a large chunk of the cut to the fire department was due to a loan being paid off. Officials said if the department needs emergency funds for equipment, they'd find a way to make it happen.

Despite Gore's assertion that the quote was taken out of context, Patterson said this is just the latest incident that has him fed up. Patterson said he wants the chief to resign.

"I'm going to see if we can have a public takeover of the fire department," Patterson said. "Something has got to be done."

FOX Carolina asked for other people's thoughts around downtown Blacksburg about the sign and the controversy. Many said they were taken aback by what it said, and that - even with context - the sign shouldn't have said "ungrateful" at all.  

Still, the townspeople said there is still support for Gore and the fire department, despite Patterson's charge for change.

"We are very grateful to the community (and) our support," Gore said.

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