• Clover firefighters threaten to walk out after long-time chief not given paid position

    By: Greg Suskin

    Updated:

    CLOVER, S.C. - The town of Clover discussed a back-up fire protection plan Monday night for families just in case firefighters make good on a threat to walk out.

    Firefighters said they are angry that the town’s longtime volunteer chief was not chosen to be the first paid fire chief.

    The Clover town council called a special meeting Monday evening to discuss the concerns about the threats firefighters made to quit.

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    Town Manager Allison Harvey told South Carolina bureau reporter Greg Suskin by email she never told chief Charlie Love he’d be offered the job. He applied like other applicants and was interviewed.

    "I never told him he'd be offered the job. Chief Love applied like other applicants and was interviewed for the position,” said Harvey.

    Love said he was told that the job would be offered to him.

    “My question is, ‘Will you all be able to lay your head down at night? Did you all do the right thing?’” Love said.

    Billy Thompson, who retired from the Gastonia Fire Department, is expected to be Clover’s fire chief beginning March 4.

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    Former Clover firefighter Ray Bayly said the volunteer chief in Clover should stay chief.

    “With his 16 years as chief and 20 as a firefighter, he's put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this town,” said Bayly.

    Bayly started a petition on Change.org, with nearly 800 signatures so far, to give the new job to Love.

    Clover is an all-volunteer department, with 21 firefighters.

    Several of them told Channel 9 that the chief was poorly treated, and they’ll quit if town leaders don't reconsider their decision.

    “Since he's already put in so many years with the fire department, they should go ahead and give it to him," said resident Kaitlynn Haas. 

    Even those who worry about fire protection if the volunteers walk out said they still get what the volunteers are doing by standing up.

    "I'm on their side. It leaves us in a bad shape, but I can see the stand that they're making though," said resident Johnny Black.

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    The city said it is reaching out to neighboring volunteer departments alerting them that they could be called on in an emergency.

    “I live two blocks from here in a house that's made of wood and is 100 years old. So, if we get a fire, I want those firefighters to respond,” said Bayly.

    Love did not want to speak on camera but told Channel 9 he thought his situation could be rectified very soon.

    When asked about the threat to public safety if firefighters quit, Love said he doesn’t think it will come to that.

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