Arrests of 2 firefighters on DWI charges could leader to bigger problems in Robeson County

North Carolina news

FAIRMONT, N.C. (WBTW) — There could be fallout beyond criminal charges after the arrest of two Robeson County firefighters accused of driving while intoxicated after a crash while they were on their way to a fire scene, officials said.

The two firefighters are Kenneth Caulder Jr., assistant chief of the Orrum Township Volunteer Fire Department, and Melquan Williams of the Fairmont Rural Fire Department.

“I mean without a doubt, probably two of the best in both departments,” Fairmont Fire Chief Rod Heasley said. “Not saying that they’re guilty or innocent, but obviously just made some bad decisions.”

Orrum Township Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Britt told News13 that he learned of the crash Friday night and Caulder was suspended on Saturday.

Heasley said Williams was set to be suspended, too, but a majority vote from the board members of the county fire department kept him on the job. Williams is set to become fire chief in January, Heasley said.

“The community needs to know that our board of directors did what they were supposed to do, according to the bylaws and according to our attorney and then the membership overturned the decisions of the board,” he said.

Heasley also said the arrests have caused some board members to resign, and now he’s having to figure out the next steps with the county.

“In this letter from the county, it stated that we had until the end of this week to submit a written letter in regards to the status of these firemen, and if we didn’t get it by Friday, that they would be in the position to cancel our workers’ compensation insurance because that’s through the county,” he said. “The other thing they’ve already done is suspend our funding.”

He said if that happens, the department will face serious issues.

“A, as a volunteer fire department we would have no money coming in from the county, which is where our money comes from, and B, if they pull the workers’ comp insurance, I can’t send my people out into the field without workers comp insurance.”

K. Robert Davis, Robeson County Attorney, sent the following statement in response to Heasley’s claims that the county was suspending the departments funding:

“Robeson County collects, holds and disburses assessments and other funds which are used to operate the fire departments. This process is authorized and followed pursuant to a contract each fire department signs with the county. It was our opinion that the fire department was in default of the contract by allowing the gentlemen with pending charges to continue to perform required duties. Therefore, by declaring the contract in default, the county would cease funding payments which would be used for day to day operations as well as payment of any required insurance premiums. We are currently working on a solution that will resolve these issues and will update you as that status changes.”

News 13 has reached out to the state fire marshal for updates on the investigation but has not heard back.

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