WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) – The fight between the Town of Lake Waccamaw and Lake Waccamaw Fire & Rescue Auxiliary moved to a courtroom Thursday.
The two sides are arguing over who gets to keep vehicles and gear after a rift that culminated when the town terminated the longtime fire chief.
Town officials filed a lawsuit in January, but the preliminary injunction hearing underway will determine who gets the equipment for the time being.
The auxiliary argues the equipment belongs to them because they raised money to purchase it. Norwood Blanchard, an attorney representing the town, compared the Auxiliary to a booster club that raises money for a high school sports team.
"If it were a high school football team and the coach changes, you don't get to take the footballs and the helmets and shoulder pads and leave," Blanchard said. "Once you give them to the high school football team, or in this case the town's fire department, those items belong to the fire department."
The auxiliary currently has some ambulances it is using to provide EMS service in the Town of Lake Waccamaw and surrounding areas.
Auxiliary member Shannon Worrell testified that the relationship between the town and the auxiliary has gotten so bad that the town is sending police officers to rescue calls when they're not needed.
Worrell said during a call Thursday morning, a patrol car blocking a driveway hindered the response from EMS crews.
"To be able to get equipment in through the yard, we had to have them come out of the house to move the police car so that we could get in to the patient," Worrell said. "A very minimal delay, but whenever seconds count, every second counts."
Lake Waccamaw doesn't have an operational fire department, but volunteer departments from surrounding areas are serving the lake through mutual aid agreements.
The town is working to re-certify its fire department and has recruited 34 volunteers, according to Town Manager Darren Currie.
A lawyer representing the auxiliary is expected to call more witnesses to the stand when the hearing resumes Friday morning.
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