Clover volunteer firefighters threaten to quit after chief ousted

An entire fire department is threatening to quit after their chief of 16 years was asked to step down.

"If he's not here, a lot of guys don't want to be here," said Luke Braswell, volunteer firefighter with Clover Fire Department.

Clover Fire Department used to be entirely volunteer-- including the chief-- until recently. The Town of Clover opened a paid chief position and received 20 applications, including the current chief, according to town administrator Allison Harvey.

Fire Chief Charlie Love says he was told the job was his, but on Thursday, he tells FOX 46, the town administrator informed him an outside candidate got the job instead. Now, the entire volunteer department is threatening to leave.

"We were all told it was a formality, the job was his. Come to find out last night, we all got slapped in the face," said Braswell.

The town administrator tells FOX 46 she received 20 applications for the paid chief position. The new candidate, Billy Thompson, is set to begin on March 4.

The Town of Clover says Thompson most recently served as Deputy Chief with the City of Gastonia Fire Department. Before that, we’re told he served as Chief from the Crowder’s Mountain Fire Department and was in that position when that department transitioned from all volunteer to a combination department.

Clover volunteer firefighters tell FOX 46 they feel the current chief, Charlie Love should be picked for the paid position.

“He was good enough to do it unpaid for 16 years, I don't see why he can't continue to be our chief as a paid chief," said Captain John Neelands with Clover Fire.

FOX 46 asked Chief Love if he supports his firefighters leaving the town and surrounding county without fire service.

"I hate to leave my family without fire protection for a while, because this fire department serves my family. But if that's the way they support me, I’ll 100 percent support them," said Chief Love.

The town administrator, Allison Harvey, responded to FOX 46 by email, “I would be disappointed for any firefighter to leave the department.”

The town is expected to hold a public meeting Monday at 7:00 p.m.. It’s unclear whether or not this could have an impact on the town’s new hire. Harvey emailed FOX 46, “Hiring decisions are delegated to me, the town administrator, by ordinance.”

FOX 46 asked whether or not Chief Love will remain at the department if the new chief takes his position as expected on March 4.

"I will more than likely go inactive because I feel although my services were good when it was an unpaid position, I don't feel she (Allison Harvey) thinks I did my job," said Chief Love.

Which may be the same decision for the entire department of volunteers.

"He (Chief Love) has been the constant one on the truck 98 percent of the time doing the work. He's been the leader that pulls this extra money in making sure we have the best trucks and equipment to support and protect the people with. It feels like a slap in the face when you don't acknowledge that," said Lamar Brown, volunteer firefighter with Clover Fire Department.