State: Morse, Fire Departments Both Certified

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Apparent confusion within the State Fire Marshal's Office created concern that Cannon County Fire Chief Faye Morse is no longer eligible to serve in that position and that the Cannon County Volunteer Fire Department lacks state recognition.

However, it now appears that neither is the case.

The Cannon Courier e-mailed the following questions to Christopher Garrett, Director of Communications for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, Thursday afternoon. The Fire Marshal's Office is a division of that department.

The Courier asked:

1) Is the Cannon County Volunteer Fire Department currently recognized as a fire department by the State Fire Marshal's Office?

2) Does Faye Morse currently have the required certification to serve as Countywide Fire Chief for Cannon County?

Garrett responded to the questions in an e-mail to the Courier Friday afternoon.

"The answers to the following (preceding) questions are all yes. The fire department is recognized and Faye Morse meets the requirements to be the Assistant To The Commissioner under state law.

"We simply needed documentation to complete the recertification for the fire department and fire chief. The County Mayor responded today (Friday) with a letter from previous Assistant Commissioner Stuart Crine showing that Faye Morse had been previously recognized along with the approximate date of appointment. 

"The Mayor's office was very cooperative in assisting us in this matter."

Cannon County Commission Chairman Bob Stoetzel, after contacting Ricky Harris, Program Administrator for the Fire Marshal's Office, and consulting with CTAS, called a Special Session of the County Commission for this Monday at 6 p.m.

Stoetzel said he did so because he was informed by Harris and CTAS that neither Morse nor the county fire departments were current in their respective certifications.

Lack of certification would have meant that families of volunteer firemen are not eligible for death benefits should they be killed while fighting a fire, that the county's volunteer fire departments can not solicit money via fundraisers, and the county can not fund their operations, Stoetzel said.

Morse received an e-mail, on June 25, 2010, from Dennis Mulder, Program Coordinator for the Fire Marshal's Office, informing her she did not have to take the fire chief class for certification because she was "grandfathered."

An e-mail was sent by Harris to an unidentified member of the Cannon County Commission's Fire Board on July 24 stating that neither Morse nor the fire departments were certified. However, the latest information provided by the State indicates that is not the case.

"I am not sure why (a meeting was called for Monday)," Cannon County Executive Mike Gannon said Saturday. "I have not heard from any of the commissioners. We received documentation from the state Friday that our county is in compliance with all state laws. I will show it to the commissioners Monday or to anyone who wants to see it for themselves if they come to our office."

Gannon said he was told by the State that the county's paperwork was put in the wrong place and that the confusion was the result of a filing error.
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