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Fire chief dispells rumors of dispute in Ware County

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Posted: April 26, 2007 4:22 p.m.
Updated: May 12, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    Like the raging wildfire that has been consuming much of Ware County this week,  rumors surrounding a conflict between Statesboro Fire Chief Dennis Merrifield and a Waycross fire department official have run rampant. However, Merrifield said the conflict was merely a "difference in opinion."
    Merrifield questioned the flurry of reports, which he said are false, that Bulloch County firefighters were sent home due to a "brief argument" between he and Waycross Fire Department Battalion Chief of Training Scott Ard, who is also the current Register Fire Chief.
    "I've heard a bunch of those rumors, too," Merrifield said Thursday.
    The point of disagreement was over "the use of some trucks," he said. "It was a difference of opinion.
    "Dennis Merrifield and I had a gentlemen's discussion over equipment," Ard said. "When we parted ways we were laughing and cutting up with each other. He was not sent home because of our discussion."
     Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn said Ard contacted him regarding the disagreement and the rumors swirling around it, and said Ard was clear that the rumors were untrue.
    Bulloch County firefighters, along with other firefighters from towns further than an hour away from Waycross, were released from duty because "they didn't need as many people," Wynn said. Ard wanted to make it clear that the brief conflict between he and Merrifield had nothing to do with Bulloch firefighters returning home.
    "That's all there was to it," Ard said. "We didn't have a fight or anything."
    And Thursday evening, Bulloch County Central 911 was calling for more volunteers from the area to return to Waycross.
    Merrifield said the decision to allow firefighters living over an hour away to return home was made by Georgia Forestry officials. The Georgia Forestry Division is leading the battle against the wildfire, he said.
    Bulloch County firefighters began arriving in Waycross Tuesday around 4 p.m., he said. The fire, which he said was "the largest active wildfire in the country and the largest in Georgia history," began last week.
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