Hazel Green Volunteer Fire Dept. Cleans House, Cuts Dozens of Firefighters

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HAZEL GREEN, Ala. (WHNT) —  Managers with the Hazel Green Volunteer Fire Department are cleaning house. More than two dozen volunteer firefighters are turning in their gear and hanging up their helmets.

“We call it a house cleaning,” said Madison County Fire Marshal Bobby Rollins. “Maybe they have some members for one reason or another that cannot be as active as they was in the past and we got newer members coming on.”

Most of the volunteer fire departments have a percentage of calls they want you to answer. If you can’t respond to the calls like you used to, they’re going to give your equipment to someone who will use it.

“I’m sure this isn’t the first incident,” said Rollins. “By the time they request your equipment, you’ve been talked with and asked to fix things and start coming out more and for some reason they can’t do it.”

Rollins told WHNT News 19 that around 30 members were cut from the force. However, he insists it won’t affect the departments ability to respond to calls. “They’re still going to have the manpower to do what they need to do,” he said. “Most of those 30 are the people that aren’t coming out now so we’re not going to lose them.”

Other departments can also lend a hand while Hazel Green looks for new recruits to suit up. “We’ve got other communities that can back them up, they also back up other communities so it’s all a big family out there and we all take care of each other.”

Rollins said it’s not personal. It’s just a business decision.

“It’s not a bad reflection on the people that are getting replaced, it’s just that we got to keep going forward.”

If you would like to be trained to become a volunteer firefighter for the Hazel Green VFD, contact the Fire Marshal’s office at (256) 851-6947  and they will put you in touch with the right contact person.



    • Steve Henderson

      M.Fry, if those folks that have been asked to leave haven’t been attending training, then they’re hurting their ISO rating even more than not showing up on scenes.

  • Phil

    The bad part is, I’ve been seeing the “neighboring community’s” fire trucks and SUVs in Hazel Green a LOT more than Hazel Green’s Fire trucks and SUVs. This has been going on entirely TOO LONG. My family pays taxes and expects a service provided by my LOCAL fire department (and I use that term loosely), it’s not right to expect the neighboring departments to cover Hazel Green’s laxidasical performance!

    • Rick

      Phil, I’m sure you will be the first one in line to volunteer to take their place! Correct? You seem to be missing something here. The fire department is made up of VOLUNTEERS. Your taxes may be paying for the equipment, but the volunteers who have rolled out of bed at all hours and all kinds of weather are not getting paid a dime of your tax money. They aren’t getting paid at all. This is a problem that VFDs from coast to coast are facing more and more. The older guys have done their tour and the younger ones aren’t into the volunteer thing.

      • Fireman

        Rick, your remarks are accurate that it’s volunteer. This is a matter of leadership and structure. There are 16 departments in Madison County. 15 of them pull their weight. 1 does not. This is an isolated problem, not a “global issue” as you imply. They run a Mickey Mouse Club rather than a VFD – always have. Those of us around them pay the price with no additional funding to support the drastic increase in calls we see.

      • Phil

        Actually, I will not be signing up. I AM, and have been a volunteer for 14 years. I have always met my requirements, and then some. I have to hear the radio CONSTANTLY page backup for them, and occasionally have to VOLUNTEER my valuable personal time to cover calls for them… This “breaking news” is no news at all. The social club of HGVFD is barely competent, and in constant need of structure… Not money, which they’re constantly begging for… A “HOUSE CLEANING” is long overdue, but I can assure you, if the leadership was sound, the membership would follow, and flourish.

  • Fireman

    This is great news! This means those of us in surrounding departments will have even less hope of sleeping through the night. In my 10+ years in the volunteer fire service in Madison County, this “fire department” has ALWAYS been in turmoil. Never any stability and never an ability to carry their own weight. There is a long history of incompetent leadership (now more than ever) and there’s no expectation of anything changing. The very best thing that could happen would be for the county to dissolve Hazel Green VFD and allow the surrounding departments to absorb the area. I would NEVER live in Hazel Green or depend on their members for ANYTHING. Chief Sullenger, if you have any decency left, please step down and go away. You are doing more harm than good.

    Also, I’m not sure how a statement from the “Fire Marshal” is even relevant here, but that’s a whole different problem in and of itself. Bobby Jo Rollins needs to keep his rat-eyes out of the business of the fire departments in this county!

      • Phil

        It’s not the “Fire Marshal’s” business because the individual departments DO NOT answer to him. He is simply a “Department Head” that is over 2 additional part time inspectors/investigators, and a secretary. He has no absolute authority over the volunteer fire departments, unless he is investigating a scene. It just so happens that he has taken up with the HGVFD, and it’s members, and also happens to be a camera hog, that is ATTEMPTING to justify his job…

    • Steve Henderson

      Have them turn all their gear in, remove them from the roster (because they’re affecting your ISO rating), take their FD door keys/combination, take away their workman’s comp insurance, remove them from the car tag list.

  • David Baldwin

    Well I will not hide behind a false name like some. I have been a member of HGVFD FOR 18 years and yes we have some issues. We removed about 12 members last night due to inactivity. I do not know where the number of 30 members came from but it was only around 12. And if there are any people in our community that want to come and help please do so!

    • Carol Locker

      Don’t know how you are saying all of them didn’t do there part. I know for a fact that 1 of them worked a 12 to14 shift at night and would still go on calls.He put a lot of time in that place to tell him he was fired from doing volunteer work that was not always safe but he loved it and loved helping people so all I can say is your loss.

  • Goldie Pigg

    This is a pitiful situation. It is ridiculous that the fire department cannot find good leadership. I have heard that people are driving the fire department’s vehicles for personal use.

    • Phil

      Goldie, I saw Joe driving the Rescue truck pulling a trailer with a riding mower on it. Shortly after, it was sitting at his house still hooked up to the trailer, while he was mowing at his rental house.

    • Wanda Mason Rudder

      I remember in the 80s and some in the 90s HGVFD had an awesome dept. They were quick to respond anytime daddy needed them or any of the family for that matter. I remember daddy getting up sometime at 1 am to help fix a fire truck. I would love to volunteer but I live in the big city of Hollywood. People just aren’t interested in community anymore they have no clue who their neighbors are. Anyway glad to see ya on here.

  • R. Hamilton

    The current chief at Hazel Green Fire Department is doing a fine job. He is trying to better the department by setting a good example, and by encouraging members to actually go on calls. The former chief is an unpleasant, unfriendly person who actually ran off people who genuinely wanted to help, not just play with a light and siren. Hopefully these positive changes will continue and the old guard will move on and find something else to do with their playtime.

    • David Baldwin

      R. Hamilton you do not know me so I would appreciate it if you would not pass judgement on me. Thank you.

  • Coloa Gilliam

    They need to get rid of all the current people at the fire
    department and start new for the one they have can’t seem to do there job’s with out back stabbing , gossiping, and starting drama.and brown nosing, Hazel Fire Department is joke to we the community of Hazel Green.

  • citizen of madison county

    I dont see it that was I mighr be wrong but is the Fire Marshal not the lead fire official in the county that answers to the commission?

    • Phil

      No, not at all… Like I said the only thing he is OVER, is the other 2 inspector/investigators, the secretary, and himself. The news media tends to hontonhim because he is a Monday -Friday, 40hr a week employee…. He’s not a member of any one of these volunteer fire departments…. for that matter, if he tried as hard to do his job as he is trying to become the Gurley Police Chief, he would be in a lot better place!

      • citizen of madison county

        I dont know anything about that but I can see where he acts like he cares about all the fire departments and not just one or two. Either way thing change and you have to grow with the times.

  • David Baldwin

    R. Hamilton you do not know me so I would appreciate it if you would not pass judgement on me. Thank you.

    • R. Hamilton

      Baldwin, I know you well enough to know that you’re an arrogant @$$ who was voted out of the chief’s position by your peers and that the current failures of the department are basically due to your astounding and complete lack of leadership ability.

      • David Baldwin

        Hamilton I do not know who you are, but your comments reflect your ignorance. You do not know anything about me or what I stand for or you would not make the comments that you have made. If you want to meet somewhere to discuss the issues you have with me then just say the word, otherwise stop commenting on things you know nothing about.

  • Fireman

    David Baldwin is five times the leader that the current “chief” ever thought about being. Perfect? No. Competent and dedicated? Absolutely. One of the few who has ever busted his rear and actually tried to move the department in a positive direction. The only reason he isn’t there now is because he has a set of balls and put his foot down on some issues. The result – it hurt the feelings of a gaggle of kids that had no business being in the department anyway so they got a group of people together to vote him out of his position.

    There are some good people at HGVFD. Folks I consider friends. But until there is a foundation on the ground, you can’t expect to build a quality department. Simple as that.

  • Kim

    don’t volunteer mean you help out when you can Hazel Green Has always tryed to run that dept like a paid firehouse would it not be better to have 100 volunteers then 30 the more you got the chances that some one will 10-2 the alarm haze. Hazel Green has took back gear from paid Firefighters from Huntsville casuse the could not answer all the calls

    • Steve Henderson

      Kim, if those members are not attending training, they’re hurting the department more than helping. They also cost the department money as it relates to workman’s comp insurance. Plus all that gear they have cost a lot of money that’s not being used.

  • M.Fry

    This isn’t going to change anything. The department will still run like it always has. If you live in Hazel Green and feel like making a difference, join the department. If you don’t want to join, but still want to voice your opinion to the department, come to one of the department meetings. The meetings are open to the public and are held on the first Monday of each month.

    Some of us do carry our weight, and don’t have anything to do with the drama, but I realize that we all get lumped together when the entire department is the focus. As for our leadership, no one is perfect, but they are trying.

  • Jana

    I grew up in Hazel Green, I even volunteered for a year at HGVFD.
    I volunteered under Mr. Baldwin, and personally i feel he did the best job he could with what he had to work with. Everyone has an opinion of how a VOLUNTEER department should run, but until you get off your behind and get in there to help YOUR community, you dont have any room to tell anyone how they should run things. Yes, there will always be room for improvement, and yes, there will ALWAYS be idiots who want in just because they want a t-shirt, a radio, and a ride on a big ol truck.. you cant get around that. However, i KNOW that there are members who have the heart and passion for helping others, that run every call they possibly can, that pull their weight at the station, etc.. but because of all the dumb drama, no one can see that there are really good people, who really want to do good in their community, in Hazel Green VFD. These people DO NOT get a paycheck for getting out of their warm bed at 2am, leaving their own family to go pull some jackass out of a ditch because he didnt think he was too drunk to drive. They leave their kids ballgames and birthday parties to help the little old lady that fell down in her home and had no one else to come help.
    So, next time you want to run your mouth about how awful the county VOLUNTEERS are.. you need to stop and think.. are you selfless enough to leave your own life for a while to go help someone else in need?

  • HG

    What a Joke, I have lived in the area for years. It is a group of flunkies, people who struggled through HGHS. Every time you drive by that place they are never doing anything but playing farmboy. Much like HPD, but they are getting paid so that would be okay right? What a joke, fire the ones who work for free but keep all the laziness on the police department. Madison County/ Huntsville is doomed due to corruption no one wants to address, that’s the real problem.

  • David Fry

    It never ceases to amaze me how judgemental people can be when they have nothing what so ever to do with the department in question. I am a career firefeighter with 25 years of service. I currently volunteer with Hazel Green and I’m proud of each and every one of them. We are currently addressing a growing problem within our department that all the others have but don’t want to admit. I’ve read with interest all of the previous comments and feel that there may be one or two of you that haven’t a clue what you’re talking about. At this time we have a major commercial development moving in and we need to grow our department in order to make their arrival more seamless in their choice of where to build. Hazel Green is a vibrant and muticultural community and we need to grow our department to address all these issues. With the help and guidance of our Fire Marshall and county commissioners we can accomplish this. We need trucks, equipment and new fire stations. How many of you wise people have come out to assist in this endeavor? The Turner family on Walker Lane have stepped up, anybody else.
    Phil, whoever you are, I don’t know you, and from what you’ve posted, I don’t think I want to know you. You’re a little to interested in running people down.
    We need more people who are interested in helping the community instead of complaining about the Fire/Rescue department.
    I challenge the people of Hazel Green to step up and help us help you.
    One other thing, and this is addressed to the News Media, especially Channel 19 and Magan Hayes. I waych you News everyday, and I would appreciate you getting your facts right.Sensationalism, even in the local community needs to be eliminated and facts properly researched.

  • David Fry

    Addressing the Chief and the lawn mower issue. Did you ever think he was using his time off, personal lawn mower and his own mower gas to cut the grass at the three stations he is in charge of?
    Phil, you need to check your facts about the Fire Marshall’s scope of responsibility.
    HG whats your problem with HPD? They arrest you for doing something wrong?
    Also and most importantly!!! The County Commisioners know that the volunteer community is saving them a bundle, otherwise they would have to shell out big money for fire protection which means, you guessed it, your taxes and other fees would go up dramatically.
    If you know how to fix all the issues you’re addressing, I agree with M Fry, come to the meetings and put in an application.
    Phil, if you hear them paging out other departments to backup HG then you have a radio which means you’re part of the system, so quit bashing the people who are trying to do the work, or get your ass out there and help.You live in this community. nough said.

    • Phil

      Captain Fry, Unless your department has annexed the brick house on the Northeast corner of Walker Ln and the Highway (coincidentally where Chief Sullenger lives) as a substation, then Im certain he was NOT cutting the grass at the fire stations. Rescue 113 (the white ford super duty with a camper shell and RES1CUE on the side) was nosed into the driveway with a black utility trailer hooked up. Chief Sullenger was making laps on the lawn mower, mowing HIS OWN YARD. It wasnt drivers training, or mowing at the fire stations… Funny thing is, he drove his PERSONAL truck to the fire station to get a DEPARTMENT vehicle while his COUNTY truck sat in the drive way… Wonder why he couldnt just take it?!?! And as for “getting my ass out there to help” Trust me when I say, I run far more calls in Hazel Green’s fire district than you sir… I’d say Im doing my part.

      And I would LOVE to see the “Fire Marshal” come into my department and attempt to flex his authority. The only reason he even still has an office is because they have taken over $300,000 from the 3-mil tax to fund the “Fire Marshal’s office”…. All we are doing is paying 3 of the 4 people to ride around in county vehicles, and to eat at Poseys….

      Im not disagreeing with yours and Matts statements of trying to solicit volunteers… And I dont disagree with thinning down your rosters..But nothing I have stated has been false either… I know the majority of the people in that department, and have for years…Just as I know you and your son… You can call it bashing, but anyone else would say Im calling a duck, a duck.

  • citien of madison county

    Hey fireman,

    I checked on that Gurley comment an they have a Police Chief. News must be slow in Killingsworth Cove

  • christine

    I was a member of Hazel Green Fire Department for 7 years beginning in 1994 I trained with those guys every time we had a training class and I was also a E.M.T I ran a lot if calls as a full time mother and a full time job I devoted a lot of time there and started a lot of things like the christmas parade. There was good people there and some that just wanted to say they belonged I have no hard feelings about that department even when I took a leave because I found out I had cancer I did not tell anyone what was wrong just I was sick and needed to be home I was told hold on to my emt bag and I said if you need it just call shortly after my leave I received a letter I was voted out no phone call no whats wrong some know I was sick but not wad wrong. That was the I just want to be known I a member people. I was tthere when David Baldwin was there and he was devoted to that Department but like me the petty little group gets together to show they have the pull and good people get screwed.

  • firefighter

    If you are going to clean house at one volunteer fire department clean it at all. I seem to remember a fire chief in Gurley who unvolunteered two people who ran 99 percent of the calls because the mayor was mad at them. The fire chief Freddy Little hasn’t run half a dozen calls this year and refuses to do what the council tells him but he is still in office.

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