Rabun County Fire Chief Marty Dixon served notice to the three firefighters at a meeting in the conference room of the department. The three firefighters were ordered to return all keys, equipment and other property owned by the county fire department no later than 5 p.m. Friday.
Dixon explained Friday afternoon that the trio had been permanently removed from their positions.
“It was a personnel issue, a closed meeting,” Dixon said.
Asked how father and sons reacted to the decision, Dixon said, “You can pretty well figure out that they weren’t happy.”
Jordan Green was loading a four-wheeler, barbecue grill and other belongings onto a trailer Friday morning. He sat down for an interview Tuesday.
Jordan declined to get into specifics about what might have led to the county’s decision. He said he, his brother and father were removed “without explanation.”
“I think what the three of us, when I say the three of us, myself, my father and my brother, felt was a lot of emotional distress as far as a deep sadness in the fact that this is what we’ve given a lot of our lives to,” Jordan said. “Time, you know, a lot of people in life ask for more time to do something — they always wish they had more time — and we’ve given a lot of our time toward this voluntarily. That’s why it’s called volunteer firemen.”
Jordan said the volume of time his family had spent volunteering made the firing even more painful.
“It’s just heartbreaking to see something you’ve invested so much time in be taken away from you,” Jordan said.
Upon learning the Green family had been fired, Michael DeRoche, a 10-year-member of the department, resigned on the spot. He is a retired DeKalb County firefighter.
“They’re probably the finest people I’ve ever met,” DeRoche said. “This is the worst thing I’ve seen in my life — ever.”
Jordan said DeRoche’s response made him feel thankful for the opportunity to volunteer and share the bond of brotherhood with DeRoche and other volunteers.
“That’s what a brotherhood is about as far as taking care of each other and being there physically and spiritually,” Jordan said. “For someone with his tenure, someone with his experience, someone that’s seen a lot more than I have, to feel that way (it) really makes me appreciate the fact that I was given the chance to be a volunteer fireman and share in experiences with him and other people.”
Jordan said he didn’t see the termination coming. He added that he hoped to see the department grow and continue developing.
“People should do the right thing, and at this time the right thing would be that if you feel like, anyone feels like, they should continue volunteering, they should,” Jordan said. “That’s what we want, for the citizens to be safe.”
Dixon declined to comment when asked if each Green was removed for separate causes of action or one incident.
Rabun County Commission Chairman Greg James also declined to offer specifics. “We’re looking at it as a no comment, as essentially a personnel issue,” he said.
A factor that may have played a role in the decision was someone representing Clayton Fire Department, also known as Station 1, applied for and obtained a Federal Communications Commission license to operate a frequency separate from the other frequencies whose licenses were obtained by Rabun County government. FCC records show that Andrew Green, then the assistant fire chief, was the licensee when the license was granted in April 2006.
The Rabun County Board of Commissioners consolidated operations of 10 of the 12 volunteer firefighting departments in the county under one umbrella in 1998, Dixon said. The Tallulah Falls and Sky Valley-Scaly Mountain departments are independent of the others.
County 911 Director Mike Carnes said the county had a license for every wave length used in public safety except for the private frequency operated by Station 1. The county hires an agency to help do the legwork in reapplying for the federal licenses.
Clayton Mayor John Bradshaw said Clayton had no part in obtaining the license for Station 1. He said Andrew Green approached Clayton City Council about putting a radio on Black Rock Mountain.
Bradshaw said Andrew told council that police could use the radio as a backup unit, and council agreed to pay $150 a year.
“I was a little misled,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw said he didn’t find out until recently about the private frequency. He checked and learned the application said “Clayton Fire Department” and not the city of Clayton. He said he told Andrew that Clayton does not have a fire department.
“I was told we (Clayton) had nothing to do with that,” Bradshaw said. “He did that on his own.”
Bradshaw said he and Police Chief Lindsey Owens found out about the channel and checked with Carnes.
Carnes said the Station 1 frequency didn’t go through the county dispatch center. Therefore, its traffic is not recorded. Carnes said all other channels were recorded for documentation and accountability in case a mistake is made. The recordings also are used in training.
Carnes also said the county had four levels of redundancy with radio on Alex Mountain, Black Rock Mountain, Screamer Mountain and Laurel Ridge. The county also has a mobile command, and if all communications are down, dispatchers can flip a switch and have all radio traffic sent through Habersham County’s dispatch center.
Bradshaw said he asked “point blank” where the money came from to purchase the radio equipment for the private frequency and that Jordan told him it was raised through private funds.
Another brouhaha among firefighters occurred about a year ago at a monthly chiefs meeting. At that meeting, Jordan criticized Mike Hopkins, then the county fire chief, and Dixon, who became county fire chief July 1.
“He was in there raising Cain about Marty Dixon not doing his job, Mike Hopkins not doing his job,” said Randy Speed, a member of the county fire committee. “He was accusing them all of not doing their job.”
Speed said he didn’t know who Jordan was at the time, but after the meeting five or six chiefs apologized for the way Jordan talked to him.
Hopkins said he heard some talk that negative comments were made about him.
“They can be critical of me all they want to,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t really know what that was all about.”
Jim Higdon, a former fire committee member who moved to Big Canoe three years ago, said Andrew and Hopkins had been at odds for years about firefighting operations.
“Green always kind of wants to do stuff his own way, and he doesn’t really want to do things the way Mike has set it up,” Higdon said. “It’s been a battle for years.
“Mike always has done a good job and what’s best for all the county fire departments, not just one fire department.”
Kenneth Carver, former chief of Chechero Fire Department, said each station used to run itself until the departments were consolidated under the county umbrella. About a decade ago, both the Chechero and Clayton departments obtained Department of Homeland Security grants, he said. Chechero later had to turn in whatever equipment it received to the county.
Carver said “a lot of paperwork” came with the grant. He was aware that the Clayton station had its own personal channel at one time.
“Well, there’s been some controversy there for years,” he said. “That’s all I’ll say.”
Carver also expressed sadness for those who lost their firefighting positions.
“Buff has been in fire service for many years and has done a lot for the county,” Carver said.
“Everybody needs to get along, from commissioners on down to the new mayor,” he said.
Carver compared firefighters to lug nuts on a wheel.
“Anytime you lose one, it might be the one you need to save somebody’s life,” he said.
Dixon said Tony Waite would serve as acting officer in charge for Station 1 until further notice.