Volunteer firefighters in Fairfax City fear their current fund-raising effort to buy new equipment could be thwarted because they were "represented illegally" in last month's telephone solicitation for the town's paid firemen.
Spokesmen for the paid firefighter union, the Fairfax City Professional Firefighters Association, contend, however, that their recent phone solicitation for tickets to a country-western show to benefit the union was not misleading or illegal.
The controversy over fund raising stems from the telephone ticket sales campaign conducted last month on behalf of the union by Community Benefits Corporation of Woodbridge. Area residents were asked to buy tickets to a country music event, with the money to go to the paid firefighters' union.
John Case, vice president of the Fairfax City Volunteer Fire Department Inc., said several people who had received calls offering tickets to the concert said they were told it would benefit the volunteer organization.
In an effort to clear the air before beginning its own fund-raising campaign this month, the volunteer group sent out a news release Nov. 20 clarifying its fund-raising goals and claiming that it was "represented illegally" in a competing fund drive. The release stated that the Fairfax Volunteer Fire Department fund raising takes place "in December and July by direct mail . . . only for the purchase of fire and rescue equipment."
"Our drive could be affected," said James McGrath, president of the volunteer group, referring to a dozen complaints he received about the professional firefighters' ticket sales.
"If I was a citizen and thought I was donating for a new fire engine and found out my money went to union activities, I'd be a little upset," McGrath said. "Some individuals contacted us thinking that the money they donated for tickets was going to purchase equipment. It is not."
McGrath added that it is "very coincidental" that the paid firefighters conduct their phone drive just before the volunteers mail out their requests for donations.
Fifty volunteer firemen supplement the efforts of 45 paid firefighters in the Fairfax City Fire Department, and the two groups have distinct fund-raising roles, according to Fire Chief Harold E. (Gene) Dailey.
"The volunteers buy the equipment and the city maintains it," Dailey said. The firefighters' union, on the other hand, has "put money into equipment for training, but they have not purchased any firefighting apparatus. That is not their role."
The president of the paid firefighters' union, Lt. John Boone, said this was the fourth year his group had hired the company to make phone sales and put on the event.
"The money goes into our general fund for different activities," Boone said, adding that it is not for equipment, but for the association's traveling fire prevention trailers, sponsorship of softball leagues and for "whatever means the membership votes for."
Despite the dispute, however, representatives on both sides agree they continue to work well together.
"We have an excellent relationship," said Don Barklage, vice president of the professional firefighters' association. "I don't even like to use the term volunteer versus career because we're one department. We've had the same training and we provide the same level of care."
McGrath concluded that the relationship between the two factions is now "good." But he added, "If this continues, it could strain the relationship between the volunteer board of directors and the union."
Fairfax City Manager Edward A. Wyatt said he had not received any citizen complaints on the matter. "The only complaint I've heard is through the news release and the president of the volunteer group."
The 1984-85 city budget included $2.3 million in operating funds for the fire department, and about $100,000 in capital expenditures for maintenance, Wyatt said.