SABINE COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - The Rosevine Volunteer Fire Department, which is located in Sabine County, made headlines recently when Terry and Tiffany McKee were removed from their positions of assistant chief and secretary/treasurer.
They were later arrested for felony credit and debit card abuse.
Ever since the allegations surfaced, the department has been divided. Volunteers left, and we're told leadership positions will soon change.
However, Rosevine's problem could serve as an important reminder for volunteer fire departments everywhere.
Rosevine is typical of so many communities across East Texas. There's a country store, lots of churches, and highway intersections.
Resident Miriam Ferguson remembers a big day back in 1985.
"Oh, it was wonderful," Ferguson said. "We just were so proud we could have a volunteer fire department here in Rosevine."
Now Ferguson wonders why sirens aren't heard from the department located just across the road.
Ferguson's niece, Linda Cooper, a former Rosevine volunteer firefighter, said volunteers left when allegations of internal theft surfaced.
She turned in her bunker gear way before the turmoil, but still partially blames herself and other volunteers for not keeping track of the accounting system.
"Well, that was our fault, 100 percent, so we should have asked, and it should have been provided, but we didn't ask, so that is our fault," Cooper said.
Accountability is a concern for VFDs.
The Rosevine VFD property was donated by the church across the street. A donated fire truck from a neighboring VFD sits idle. Federal funding provided a generator.
The problems are probably isolated to the Rosevine Volunteer Fire Department, but it sends a strong message to volunteer fire departments statewide. It's important that even small organizations have a good checks and balances and know where the money is going.
Cooper wants to reunite the volunteers, and Ferguson wants to hear the sirens once again.
"Never complained because I knew somebody was getting some help," Ferguson said.
County dispatch says it continues to call Rosevine VFD when they're needed.
Department leadership would only speak to East Texas News by phone.
Chief Penny Riley said she contacted authorities immediately after discovering the accounting discrepancies. Co-Chief Chris Rhame said he will step in as chief when legal issues are settled.