WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) – A judge has ordered the Town of Lake Wacamaw to hand over rescue equipment and other property - for the time being - to Lake Waccamaw Fire & Rescue Auxiliary.
Superior Court Judge Gale Adams issued the temporary injunction Friday following a two-day hearing at the Columbus County Courthouse.
The order will remain in place until the case goes to trial or the two sides settle.
The items the auxiliary will receive include drag hooks used in water recovery efforts, tools used to extricate people from wrecked cars, turnout gear, and a variety of office and kitchen equipment.
The auxiliary has continued to respond to EMS calls following a rift that culminated with the town removing the long-time fire chief.
The town is working to re-open the fire department.
Much of the debate in court focused on a third type of emergency service: rescue.
Mike Willis, an attorney representing the auxiliary, argued that even though area departments are currently providing rescue service in Lake Waccamaw through mutual-aid agreements, residents are at risk.
"There's nobody else that can do water rescue," Willis said. "None of the fire departments that are serving Lake Waccamaw right now are in the water rescue business."
The town's attorney in the case, Norwood Blanchard, claimed the auxiliary's bylaws allow it to independently provide EMS but not fire and rescue services.
"It wasn't designed to have a life of its own, and it never really operated that way until the last three months," he said.