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Stephens Co. Man Loses Job Fighting Fire

STEPHENS CO., Okla_ A volunteer firefighter for the Doyle Fire Department in Stephens County claims he lost his paying job for answering a fire call while he was at work.

Chad McWhorter works for a waste management company based in Duncan and said the fire he responded to broke out last Wednesday in Velma.  He said since it just happened to be very close to where he was working, he went to help. He said he was gone for about an hour, returned to work, and finished up. Later, he was fired.

McWhorter never told his employer he was leaving to help fight the fire. He said he got the call, parked his truck, and left it there while he responded to the fire. He never let his supervisor know he was gone.

"I had just picked up the trash at Velma's EMS building when the page came out that they needed assistance," McWhorter said. "Radios were pretty quiet on volunteers responding. I went ahead and made the decision to pull over and respond to the fire and try to help."

He was then gone for an hour, but he returned to work and finished his duties. He said the fire only made him late by 20 minutes, and he had never once been in trouble with the company.

"This right here was my first actual problem that I had with the company, basically having any type of reprimand or anything like that," McWhorter said. "All I got was termination."

In a phone call to waste management about the firing of McWhorter, the company said they were not allowed to publicly comment on HR and employment-related topics. However, they did say they do not fire an employee over one incident, especially responding to a fire.

McWhorter said that is what happened.

"I was contacted on the radio and come straight back to the yard and go straight to the office to talk to my supervisor," McWhorter said. "When I got in there, he let me know I was being terminated for fighting fire."

As of now, only state-employed volunteers are protected to leave work to fight fire without risking their employment, which McWhorter said should change.

"I don't believe it is right that we should have to worry about losing our jobs when the call does come out," McWhorter said. "We shouldn't have to make that decision to keep our jobs or help our communities."

Doyle Fire Chief Earl Henderson said he has met with his other volunteers to let them know to be more communicative with their employers.

"We did discuss Chad's situation a little bit, and pretty much everybody is under the understanding that can happen," Henderson said.

McWhorter was adamant that he did not want 7News' story to become about him. He said he wanted to get information out to other volunteer firefighters and their employers.

 

 

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