Is The Fire Department Defunct?

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RICE TOWNSHIP -- A chaotic meeting took place in one community in Luzerne County where supervisors voted to decertify the township's volunteer fire company.

But there was so much controversy over whether the vote Tuesday night was even legal that many questions still remained unanswered.

This all happened in Rice Township. The solicitor there says he believes the vote to decertify the volunteer fire department was legal. And there are a few reasons why.

But, legal or not, Rice township firefighters continue to fight for their department.

The coats and helmets hang on the walls next to the Rice Township fire trucks in the garage and that's where they'll stay after township supervisors voted to decertify the department.

But when supervisors made a motion to adjourn the meeting, and then voted on the future of the fire department, it left residents wondering if the vote actually counted.

The township solicitor says even though supervisor Miller Stella made a motion to adjourn and that motion was seconded, the supervisors never actually voted to adjourn. So even when Stella asked the crowd to leave, the meeting was actually still going on.

"Before we continued, I asked Mr. Higgs for his professional opinion and he gave it to me, and we continued. It was just that it was a disruptive situation," Stella said.

Stella says the supervisors wanted to decertify the department because the firefighters lacked training and funds were mismanaged.

Guy Simms lives across the street from the department. He agrees it needed improvement, but doesn't feel it should have been decertified.

"I think things can be corrected down there rather than destroying the whole situation, and I think they should be given the chance."

Firefighters from Rice Township say they're already looking to hire a lawyer to appeal the decision.

Gina Tombasco, a Rice Township volunteer, says the department is worth saving.

"We sat. We cried. We reminisced and just thought 'how could people be so ignorant and cruel?'"

Stella says he's already cancelled the insurance on the fire department's building and calls have been made to cancel workers compensation insurance for the firefighters.

Fire calls in Rice Township are now being answered by volunteers from Wright Township.