Unexpected strike by volunteer firefighters in Kanawha County

Several volunteer firefighters with the Tyler Mountain Volunteer Fire Department staged a walkout on Monday. Other county agencies are currently working to clear the backlog.

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

The fire department reported Monday that seven of its 25 volunteer firefighters had left their posts. However, other media outlets have since reported that at least 10 firefighters staged a joint strike, allegedly over concerns from fire department management.

The sudden departure left fewer first responders on standby in the Cross Lanes community, served by Tyler Mountain VFD. The fire brigade is currently verifying applications for new employees.

Meanwhile, officials with the fire department and throughout Kanawha County are working to ensure the areas covered by the Tyler Mountain VFD are protected.

Existing mutual aid agreements allow neighboring fire departments to contribute to rescue efforts at Cross Lanes, the Kanawha County Commission said in a statement Monday.

The statement said Kanawha County officials and 911 dispatchers will help coordinate rescue efforts within Tyler Mountain VFD’s coverage area. This may include contacting the fire departments located in Dunbar, Institute, Nitro, Sissonville and St. Albans to respond to some emergencies at Cross Lanes.

Dunbar Fire Chief Jason Burger said mutual aid agreements between Tyler Mountain VFD and area fire departments have a long tradition and have helped first responders receive additional support when needed during rescue operations.

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

The Tyler Mountain Volunteer Fire Department has been directing firefighting operations in the Cross Lanes community of Kanawha County since 1951.

Photo: Tyler Mountain Volunteer Fire Department

Joe Stevens, public information officer for the Nitro Fire Department, said the contracts keep emergency response in familiar Cross Lanes territory and that the waivers do not place an additional burden on Nitro first responders.

“This is nothing new,” he said.

Still, Burger said his department had minimal information about the nature of the strike at Cross Lanes. He received news of the strike on Monday afternoon but was not informed of its motivation.

“I don’t have any confidential information about what’s going on there,” he said. “I hope that whatever happens, cooler heads prevail… because ultimately it is the citizens who will suffer.”

Tyler Mountain VFD did not respond directly to an interview request, but referred West Virginia Public Broadcasting to a statement the department wrote Monday.

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

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

Tyler Mountain VFD will discuss the strike at its regularly scheduled public meeting on Wednesday at 6 p.m., to be held at 5380 Big Tyler Road in Cross Lanes.

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

Author: Jack Walker

Jack Walker joined West Virginia Public Broadcasting at the Eastern Panhandle Bureau in January 2024. He previously worked for the Washington Blade and the Times West Virginian in Fairmont. He earned his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Brown University and his associate’s degree from Frederick Community College. View all posts by Jack Walker