KENTUCKY, USA — It's been 42 days since the first of now 17 firefighters turned in their resignation letters and left the Lebanon Junction Volunteer Fire Department.
On Aug. 1., Mayor Larry Dangerfield announced Adam Heath would be the new fire chief, but Heath told WHAS11 he took the reins a month ago on July 18.
“Then it was a challenge for me, you know, to be able to serve the citizens and to get the citizens trust back as far as the chief of the department.” Heath said.
Two more resignations came after Heath was named the fire chief. The most recent was Chris Watts, the latest member of the fire department to resign said.
He told WHAS11 the dynamic of the department changed after a third of its members walked out.
"The family environment of the fire departments change. It's not there anymore," Watts said.
"You used to be able to you got the fire department and just feel comfortable. It felt like you were on eggshells. With all the things going on, and not exactly knowing who was on whose side or who to trust anymore." Watts said.
Resignation letters obtained by WHAS11 show firefighters and department leadership cited "lack of training," "poor standards expected from city leaders" and that the office promotes a "life-endangering environment."
The resignations came after disagreements on training hours after one of the volunteer firefighters did not record any training hours in 2021 and only one hour so far this year. The state requirement is 20 hours per active member.
These hours contribute to a department minimum for state aid the department receives each year. That amount is up to $11,000 for the department, according to the chief.
In a city meeting, mayor Dangerfield and city council challenged the hours. Dangerfield saying it took the, "volunteer out of volunteer firefighter."
"It is heartbreaking, because it's not like they even tried to see why we left or what we wanted or cared what we wanted... It was about them not having our back and lack of training people." Watts said.
Heath said he plans on having members meet the minimum state requirement of 20 hours and will encourage additional training.
“If you know, a member has the availability to get more, by all means.” Heath said, “They're 100% voluntary, you can't make somebody do something when they don't have the time for it."
For those who left, Heath commended them on their service. "The time they spent here, the blood sweat and tears… they did what they had to do."
Heath said that he's open to any questions or concerns that citizens have moving forward.
"They can come see me. I'll make time for them and explain the training, the response, the equipment. We're here for the city."
Heath said he plans on making upgrades to the fire department, including personalized
WHAS11 has requested the department's future training schedule as well as service calls made by the department since the leadership change.