W. Va. Department Folds; County Plans New One

MARSHALL COUNTY, W.Va. --

After a Marshall County volunteer fire department was ordered to cease operations, county officials are looking into the possibility of reestablishing another volunteer department for the area.

The West Virginia State Fire Marshal shut down the Big Wheeling Creek Volunteer Fire Department for lack of worker's compensation insurance on Monday. The fire commission sent out a letter to notify Chief Richard Runkle that his "organization is no longer authorized to perform any emergency service."

County officials are now asking if there's anyone in that area who would be interested in being part of a new or reopened department. Officials met on Thursday at the department to discuss its future. They said the first component, sometimes the most difficult for a volunteer fire department to acquire, is members.

On Thursday, a former member of the Big Wheeling Creek Volunteer Fire Department opened up the garage to reveal a full line of firefighting equipment. However, the county can't simply take over that equipment and use it to start a new department. Officials explained the situation as one where a business has shut down and all of the private equipment it owned can't just be handed over to a new business to start up.

Officials are unsure how that equipment will be handled at this time, but they said that they're going to first gauge interest in starting another department.

"The county fire president has been in contact with some of the former members that have shown interest in possibly reestablishing the department, so I think that's a positive sign right there," said Tom Hart of the Marshall County EMA.

While Big Wheeling Creek is shut down, nearby fire departments are covering emergency calls for the area. The county's fire president said the issue of costly worker's compensation, along with other insurance and equipment costs, has other departments around the state in danger of shutting down, just like Big Wheeling Creek.

Anyone interested should leave their name, address, phone number and email address at 304-845-0482 or commission@marshallcountywv.org. You can also visit the Marshall County Fire Association's web site at www.marshallcountyfire.org.

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