Levy volunteer firefighters not responding to calls until liability insurance is available

Levy volunteer firefighters not responding to calls intil liability insurance is available

LEVY, SC (WTOC) - Just months after a Savannah man was killed in a fatal wreck in the Levy area of Jasper County, his family filed a lawsuit accusing the Levy Fire Department of negligence leading to his death.

That lawsuit was filed at the beginning of the summer. During the filing process is when the Levy fire chief noticed a key component missing from the department's contract: liability insurance.

In this case, it could have protected the department and county from being named in the lawsuit. This type of insurance minimizes the chances of a claim if someone is injured while firefighters are doing their job.

"If I hear a volunteer responding to a call, I'm going to turn them around," said Levy Fire Chief Doug Graham.

He says his volunteer firefighters will not be on the road until they have liability insurance.

"I was told maybe five weeks ago that it was going to be alright again, so now I've put it to the point where you show in writing that we're insured and we'll go back on call," said Chief Graham.

The department was started 30 years ago to provide fire protection to an area that wasn't covered. It receives more than $250,000 from Jasper County yearly for its operations, but the chief says without that insurance, his crews won't operate.

"If I send these volunteers out, and they've been running these calls for six years maybe without insurance, and something would have happened and they would have been accused then they would have to get their attorney or something. They would not have any coverage or anything else," Chief Graham said.

"The Levy Fire Department serves that area under a contractual agreement with the county. What issue came up was liability coverage for volunteers that specifically serve the volunteer fire department," said Jasper County Administrator Andrew Fulghum.

According to the county, that insurance company said they weren't covered.

"The insurance provider that we had said they were no longer covered in that area, so our staff has been working to find another company to provide liability insurance to those volunteers," said Fulghum.

The department also has three paid firefighters. One for each shift.

Because they are county employees, they're already covered by liability insurance.

The county administrator said because the department is a standalone entity, the county cannot get a policy for them. So the fire chief will have to get a quote, sign a policy and then turn the bill over to the county.

They're hoping to have this issue resolved in the next week, so those volunteers will be back on the road.

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