Jack Walker Published

Volunteer Firefighters Stage Unexpected Walkout In Kanawha County

A red fire truck that reads "Tyler Mountain Volunteer Fire Department" and "Engine 232" sits parked on asphalt, with its door open. No one is in the driver's seat, and the sky is bright but partially cloudy overhead.
Several volunteer firefighters unexpectedly walked off the job Monday, leaving their department with fewer first responders on standby.
Tyler Mountain Volunteer Fire Department

Several members of the Tyler Mountain Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) resigned during a departmental training session Monday.

The fire department said Monday that seven of its 25 volunteer firefighters left their positions. But other media outlets have since reported that 10 or more firefighters staged a joint walkout, allegedly due to concerns with the fire department’s leadership.

The sudden departure has left the community of Cross Lanes, which is serviced by the Tyler Mountain VFD, with fewer first responders on standby. The fire department is now reviewing applications for new recruits.

Meanwhile, officials within the fire department and Kanawha County at large are working to ensure that Tyler Mountain VFD’s coverage areas remain protected.

Preexisting mutual aid agreements allow neighboring fire departments to contribute to emergency response efforts in Cross Lanes, the Kanawha County Commission said in a Monday statement.

Kanawha County officials and 911 dispatchers will help coordinate response efforts in the Tyler Mountain VFD’s coverage area, the statement said. This could include contacting fire departments based in the communities of Dunbar, Institute, Nitro, Sissonville and St. Albans to respond to some emergencies in Cross Lanes.

Dunbar Fire Chief Jason Burger said mutual aid agreements between the Tyler Mountain VFD and surrounding fire departments are long standing, and have helped first responders access additional support as needed during emergency response efforts.

“We have had a mutual aid agreement with the Tyler Mountain Fire Department for quite a while,” he said. “If they need help on a call, they ask for us and we respond.”

A red brick building with large garage doors for fire trucks. An American flag stands in front of the building.
The Tyler Mountain Volunteer Fire Department has helmed emergency response efforts for the Kanawha County community of Cross Lanes since 1951.

Photo Credit: Tyler Mountain Volunteer Fire Department

Joe Stevens, public information officer for the Nitro Fire Department, said that the agreements make responding to emergencies in Cross Lanes familiar territory, and that the resignations do not pose an added burden to first responders in Nitro.

“This is nothing new,” he said.

Still, Burger said his department has minimal information on the nature of the walkout in Cross Lanes. He received word of the walkout Monday afternoon, but was not informed of the motivations behind it.

“I don’t have any insider information about what’s going on out there,” he said. “Hopefully whatever’s going on, cooler heads can prevail … because ultimately it’s the citizens that will suffer.”

The Tyler Mountain VFD did not respond directly to a request for an interview, but referred West Virginia Public Broadcasting to a departmental statement written Monday.

In that statement, James McDougle, president of the Tyler Mountain VFD board of directors, said that the fire department remains prepared to respond to local emergencies.

Likewise, Tyler Mountain Fire Chief Louie Robinson said his department is committed to continuing to serve the Cross Lanes community. He also thanked neighboring fire departments for their support.

The Tyler Mountain VFD will discuss the walkout during its regularly scheduled public meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, held at 5380 Big Tyler Road in Cross Lanes.

For more information, visit the Tyler Mountain VFD’s Facebook page.