Yemassee Town Council has fired the town’s fire chief, Paul Holmes, after council members say their fire department is being restructured. In the Tuesday night meeting when council voted on the motion, several firefighters also resigned.
Holmes served on a volunteer basis, unpaid, as did the entire town fire department of nearly 10 firefighters. The volunteers served on a call-by-call basis, holding no set shift hours at the Yemassee station; that may change.
Although Holmes has been told he no longer has a job, he still has his radio. He says he would still respond to a call.
“Why anyone would complain about a free service, is beyond me,” Holmes says.
However, Hampton County Fire is serving the Yemassee area now. Councilman Jordan Jinks says the council is working to appoint a new fire chief. Holmes had been appointed by Mayor Jerry Cook alone, which Jinks says is not legal under town ordinance. Under ordinance 9.102, “The Fire Chief shall be appointed by the Town Council.”
“It’s nothing personal against Mr. Holmes, but as far as being certified to run that department the correct way, our citizens of Yemassee deserve better,” Jinks says.
Holmes confirmed he is not firefighter certified, but is an EMT, and cites years of experience in the field. Holmes and Mayor Jerry Cook, who voted against the decision to fire Holmes, believe the decision was made because the council wants more control over fire department funds. Holmes and Mayor Cook say the council had a disagreement with Holmes, when they told Holmes to deposit money meant for the fire department into the town’s general account. To this, Jinks says the council wanted the check deposited as to be accounted for.
“It’s hurtful, really, to the Town of Yemassee citizens, because they’re the ones that’s going to suffer from this,” Mayor Cook says.
Mayor Cook worries the town could lose emergency response coverage as Hampton County takes over.
Hampton County Fire Chief Greg Cook says citizens should expect no longer response times. Chief Cook says the nearest substation to Yemassee is in Cummings, eight miles away with an estimated six minute response time.
Holmes does not understand the town’s decision, and feels it is a step in permanently disbanding Yemassee Fire.
“We have provided the service for the community, not only with fire and wrecks, but monitoring the burning of trash and any kind of emergency and assisting ems on calls,” Holmes says.
He says he will keep working, using the county equipment the department had. However, Chief Cook says this cannot be done. Chief Cook says that is the town decides to permanently incorporate into the county, he will station firefighters on shift in the Yemassee station.