Last week, news came out about Onslow Mayor Curtis Thornhill suspending the nine-member Onslow Fire Department, effective in 30 days (Oct. 15).
News reports stated that on Monday night, Sept. 16, Onslow Fire Chief Darrin Schaefer attended the Onslow City Council meeting where he presented his department report. Schaefer was quoted as saying, “After my report, the mayor made the announcement that – effective in 30 days – he’s firing the volunteer fire department.”
Mayor Thornhill clarified by saying the decision came from the fire department not complying with a citywide audit. Onslow is in the process of starting a $1.3 million sewer project, and a citywide audit is part of the process.
“The fire department is reluctant to provide the auditor with information that’s needed to complete the audit,” Mayor Thornhill said in news reports.
Schaefer, who’s been with the Onslow Fire Department for 20 years and chief for nine of those years, said he doesn’t know why the fire department was dissolved. It should also be noted that three members of the fire department are on the Onslow City Council.
Mayor Thornhill said for the past two months or so, the city has been trying to get information from the fire department for the audit.
In 2004, the “Smoke Eaters” association was established, made up of members of the Onslow Fire Department and non-firefighters. News reports stated the “Smoke Eaters” was formed by a request from the city, to distance the fire department from the city in the event of a lawsuit. The money raised by the “Smoke Eaters” is used for department equipment.
In 2007, the association lost its non-profit status; however, Mayor Thornhill stated they’d been operating as a non-profit.
Schaefer said they have since reapplied for the status renewal.
So what should happen if a fire call is made from Onslow? Schaefer said if residents and business owners have concerns after the fire department is terminated, they should call City Hall and voice their concerns.
Mayor Thornhill said, “The City of Onslow has not been left high and dry as far as their public safety.” He said other, nearby cities will respond in case of emergency.