Fairfield Glade Fire Department issued a joint statement with Fairfield Glade Community Club stating the April 4 fire at the house Fairfield Glade Police Chief Michael Williams rented was accidental. FGCC clarified statements made last week in the board work session and meeting.
“This past week some inaccurate and unclear comments were made during the Board Workshop and at the Board Public Meeting. Those comments have been misunderstood or misinterpreted and have contributed to unfounded rumors and vicious innuendos circulating through the community and on social media. These unfounded rumors and innuendos serve no purpose other than victimizing Chief Williams and his family a second time,” the FGCC statement read.
“At this time, there is absolutely no reason to consider the Chief’s situation as anything other than a very unfortunate and traumatic event.”
According to Williams, FGFD board member Gary Fitch stated in the April 23 board workshop that Williams did not call 9-1-1 for 30 minutes after discovering the fire that destroyed the entire home and everything in it.
“That was just totally false,” Williams said. “That was not true at all.”
The Club’s statement said, “First, there was no delay from the time Chief Williams and his family were awakened and the time the Chief reported the fire to the 9-1-1 Center. There was also no delay in the time it took the 9-1-1 Center to dispatch the Fairfield Glade Volunteer Fire Department.”
“They serve this community,” Williams said. “The fire department is needed here. There was no better relief for me than to stand there in my neighbor’s driveway and watch a fire truck come around the corner.”
In the board meeting Thursday, FGFD Chief Tim Malone made statements which eluded that a potential criminal investigation was “dropped” after Williams talked to the sheriff.
He said, “We only call for an investigation in certain instances. Because of his title and because of the injury, we did call for one. But the county sheriff and him talked. There was nothing out of the ordinary to worry about, so no investigation was made.
“When the sheriff and him talked, that was it. It was dropped. There was no investigation. It was never pursued.”
FGCC’s statement said Williams called Sheriff Casey Cox to inform the sheriff that the report of a structure fire in Fairfield Glade was his home, and he and his family had escaped safely.
“I think the fire chief’s comments today, he just didn’t explain himself right,” said Williams. “I think what he meant to say was there was no reason for criminal investigation because it was accidental.
“I think what they were talking about is a third-party setting my house on fire and they’ve just not conveyed that very well to the public.”
FGCC said, “Third, the Fire Department followed the normal protocol of informing the Sheriff’s Office Investigations Unit that the structure fire resulted in a personal injury and was the residence of a public official. The Sheriff’s Office Investigations Unit made the determination to defer any investigation of the structure fire to the appropriate insurance agency since there was no indication of suspicious or criminal activity.”
An April 8 email from FGFD incident commander Chris Young to the FGFD Records Officer stated command requested for a fire investigator but agreed the investigator was not needed immediately.
The email stated firefighters experienced water delay issues. Under a section labeled “Notes only not for Report,” the email read, “Second section of five inch [hose] off of Engine 4 came apart causing further delay for water. Without water on the scene any protection on the unburned garage and siding at [neighboring residence].”
The email continued that Engine 4 was on the scene to establish a water supply line sourced from the hydrant 528 feet away on Conrad Dr.
At no time did FGFD request for mutual aid assistance from the county.
The Glade Sun asked FGFD Chief Tim Malone for a meeting regarding the Williams house fire. He noted he was not on the scene among the responding FGFD firefighters.
“I’m not going to be worrying about commenting on something that happened three weeks ago when I’m going to be recruiting volunteers for my organization,” he said.
At press time, the department had not responded to questions regarding the water supply and mutual aid.
In the e-blast from FGCC, FGFD’s statement said, “Unfortunately, upon the Fire Department’s arrival, the residence was fully engulfed in flames. The Department was successful in extinguishing the fire and keeping the fire from spreading to the neighboring residence.
“The Fairfield Glade Fire Department Board of Directors would like to apologize for any statements that may have been taken out of context or appeared to be misleading.”
The department’s funding comes from the Fairfield Glade Community Club of $120,000 annually, as well as $20,000 from the county budget and thousands in private donations and fundraising campaigns. The Community Club, residents and county all have a vested interest in FGFD, its operations and management.
The FGCC statement said the insurance company has authorized Williams’ claim regarding his personal vehicle and the claim regarding the household contents are being processed.
“Thank everyone for taking such good care of me,” Williams said. “I have been blessed by this community – more than blessed – words can’t describe it. I can’t tell you how they’ve wrapped their arms around me and took care of me. I’ve been very blessed to serve this community because they’ve treated me like I was their only son and I’ll never forget it. Until I take my last breath, I’ll always be thankful for what they did for me.”