FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A controversial decision was made Monday night about the future of a volunteer fire department wracked by a sex assault scandal.
Despite calls by some to shutdown the Ellis County Volunteer Fire Department, officials chose to keep the fire station open for at least another 90 days.
The news was disappointing to Phillip Brancato. The Ellis County homeowner has no confidence in anyone at the volunteer fire station that serves his rural neighborhood. “If there was an incident [and they were called] to my house and if I wasn’t home I would be very concerned for my wife and kids,” he said.
The concerns come after the arrest of five Ellis County firefighters, for allegedly sexually assaulting a recruit, and the arrest of the chief and top assistant for allegedly trying to cover it up.
Brancato spoke at a county meeting to decide if the fire station should be shut down. But the remaining firefighters at Emergency Services District No. 6 pleaded with the oversight board to keep the station open.
Volunteer firefighter John Stephenson told county leaders, “That’s why we came here, for [our] passion to protect and serve the community.”
Waxahachie’s fire chief offered to handle calls for service in northwestern Ellis County, but the board instead decided to temporarily keep the station open and asked Chief Wes Curry, of the nearby Forreston Fire Department, to temporarily take over.
Chief Curry spoke highly of the first responders still working at the station. “I know most of these guys and they are great guys and I think they just want a chance to restore their name and continue to serve the public.”
Some residents say it’s time to bring in full-time, paid fire protection but that was not discussed at Monday’s meeting.
The five firefighters accused of assaulting the recruit have been released on bond, as has the girlfriend of one who allegedly recorded video of the assault.
Volunteer Fire Chief Gavin Satterfield and Assistant Chief Billy Getzendaner, who allegedly ordered the video deleted, have also posted bail.