The reason why KHVFD has filed a lawsuit against Clay County for breach of contract::

On April 15, 2013 Clay County Board of County Commissioners, at the direction of County Manager Stephanie Kopelousus and Fire Chief Lorin Mock, cancelled the contract between the Keystone Heights Volunteer Fire Department and Clay County which allowed KHVFD to provide fire and emergency services in Clay County and provided Clay County a station to renovate so the career staff housed at KHVFD would have adequate living facilities. At that time Clay County stopped paging KHVFD, its 42 volunteers and 7 fire apparatus to emergency calls which supplemented the Clay County career firefighters that are housed at KHVFD. The contract (attached 3 pages) is in effect until July 8, 2019 with no clause to cancel or otherwise void the contract and has specific duties of each entity to adhere to. This allowed KHVFD to provide emergency services as they have been since the 1920’s and provided Clay County a facility to renovate to house their career staff and apparatus that would meet the needs of the County. The county stated that the renovation was not cost-effective and they would not follow through with the renovation. However, Clay County has budgeted 2.8 million dollars for a new fire station in Keystone Heights to house the crews of one engine and one rescue unit.

This breach of contract by Clay County administration has caused a financial hardship for KHVFD, eliminated a valuable resource to the lake region area in apparatus, equipment, and firefighters, as well as decreased the resources to effectively and efficiently serve you as a citizen of the lake region in your time of need. KHVFD has suffered a loss of grant income, donations, community support, and morale within the department as a result of the actions of Clay County.

The Keystone Heights Volunteer Fire Department along with its legal team has attempted numerous times to negotiate a resolution to this breach of contract with Clay County and Clay County will not respond and has refused to speak of such a resolution. This has forced the hands of the Board of Directors of KHVFD to file a lawsuit against Clay County for breach of contract. This breach, if resolved as filed with the courts, is designed to allow Clay County resolution to the living condition improvements for the career firefighters housed at KHVFD in a financially responsible way, is aimed to restore the operational budget of KHVFD as dictated in the contract/lease agreement, and to restore the working relationship at the street level and administrative levels of the two fire departments so that services to the public and taxpayers of Keystone Heights are provided in a responsible and sensible way.

KHVFD has attempted for over a year to resolve this breach prior to filing a lawsuit with no success and wants to be able to serve you in the capacity allowed prior to the breach that Clay County created. Our equipment as well as volunteer firefighters have sat idle since April 15, 2013 and it is time to go back to protecting our citizens and visitors of the Keystone Heights area.

Submitted by: KHVFD Board of Directors

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Happy Halloween at KHVFD

On Friday, October 31, 2014 KHVFD and Explorer Post 501 will be passing out candy to the trick-or-treaters, selling hot dogs, chips, and drinks at KHVFD from 5:00pm until sold out. Please bring the kiddos out to KHVFD and get a goodie and a bite to eat to support your local Volunteer Fire Department. Get a fresh grilled hotdog and bag of chips for a $3.00 donation and there will be drinks available for purchase as well. Stop by KHVFD and have your pictures made with the fire engine. Every child dressed as a firefighter gets a special prize!

2014 Memorial Brick Dedication Ceremony

On Tuesday August 12, 2014 the KHVFD dedicated 2 bricks to the memorial. One brick was dedicated to Chief James Zowarka and presented to his wife Bettye. Chief Zowarka served as Chief from 1975 to 1982. Mrs. Zowarka spoke a few words about her late husbands service to KHVFD and then his brick was placed in the memorial by Chief Kevin Mobley.

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The second brick was dedicated in memory of Explorer Dakota “DJ” Mobley. DJ’s bunker gear was also retired in a glass case and placed on the new Station 10 memorial wall. Dakota’s parents, Chief Kevin Mobley and Engineer Racquel Mobley placed Dj’s brick into the memorial.

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The memorial dedication and improvements were made possible by Ace Hardware, Palatka Memorials, Shauna Edwards, and many members of KHVFD and of the community for thier hard work and dedication to make this memorial a tribute to those who have served the community and KHVFD.

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The dedication was attended by around 75 citizens and family and then refreshements were provided in the newly remodeled meeting hall. Thank you to all who attended to show respect and honor to Chief Zowarka and DJ Mobley.

2014 Independence Day Parade

Engine 10, Engine 101, Tender 109, and Brush 10 participated in the Keystone Heights 4th of July Parade today. Explorer Dakota DJ Mobley’s gear rode on the front bumper of Engine 10. Miss you DJ! Part of the Cook clan prepped Brush 10 for the parade and Probie Keith Singletary shined the tires for the parade. Happy 4th to all!

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Fourth of July 2014

KHVFD will not have its annual open house this year due to lack of communtiy support and funding. If there are any of our fire apparatus in the parade it is because a dedicated VOLUNTEER took the time to support KHVFD as a proud member. Happy 4th of July.

KHVFD awards the William “Billy” Hagans Scholarship at KHHS

At this years class night KHVFD Volunteer Daniel Cook Presented the $1000 scholarship to senior Joshua Knight. Josh plans to attend EMT school in the fall and then pursue Paramedic and Firefighter training. Congratulations Josh and good luck!


KHVFD still not able to operate in Clay County!

April 15, 2014 marked one year since Clay County commisioners, at the direction of the County Manager and Fire Chief Lorin Mock, refused to honor the contract for KHVFD to respond to emergency calls in Clay County. KHVFD and citizens of the community have sent emails, called and left messages, and scheduled meetings and Clay County administrators still refuse to meet or return correspondence to discuss options. KHVFD has offered our services to Bradford County and Clay County advised them not to utilize our department for thier county either. Clay County has breached a contract with KHVFD and there may be consequenses from the breach as well as the loss of 42 Volunteer Firefighters, and the equipment that your donations have provided for fire service in this community. Please follow the following link for the happenings of Clay County Fire Department because your property may be at risk if the loss of KHVFD is contiued.



On Monday November 4, 2013 the City Council was approached by KHVFD to serve the City as the Fire Department. Brian Wilson made several motions to allow the City Manager to negotiate with KHVFD and no seconds were made therefore the motion did not even go to a vote. KHVFD is not walking away from efforts to put our manpower and equipment back in service. Keep in touch with our facebook page and this website for updates.


Congratulations on newly certified Medical First Responders

Probationary Firefighters Sean Poppell, Jennifer Poppell, and John Spivey have completed 40 hours of training in Medical First Responder. Congratulations for your dedication and willingness to serve the community.

The History of KHVFD

Keystone Heights VFD has documented fire protection in KH since 1925. KHVFD was incorporated in 1952 and served the Lake Region Area as primary Fire Protection and Ambulance service until 1981 when, at the request of KHVFD, Clay County placed Rescue 75 at KHVFD and relieved the volunteer department of EMS transport. KHVFD then remained as primary fire protection and First Responder EMS services. In or around 2000, discussions started with Clay County in an effort to place a “paid” ALS engine in Keystone.  KHVFD was running almost every call south of State Road 16 due to a lack of response from Station 23 in McRae and lack of paid staffing in the southern end of the County. At that time there was only one ambulance assigned south of Middleburg and when it was busy the residents of the South end did not have ALS coverage. In June of 2001, Keystone Heights VFD and Clay County jointly placed “Engine 10” an ALS engine staffed by Clay County at KHVFD. Engine 10 then handled all first out emergency calls with KHVFD providing additional manpower and equipment. The crews of Rescue 75 and Engine 10 have been living in the single story home owned by KHVFD, free of charge, since 1984 when KHVFD purchased the residence at 135 Flamingo Street, through private donations, for the paid staff of Clay County to live in. From 1981 to 1984 Rescue 75 crews resided and stored the ambulance at 120 Flamingo Street. During the leadership of Public Safety Director Jim Corbin (retired), the need for additional living space for the paid Clay County employees was a priority.  A “Lease Agreement and Contract” was approved and signed which covered a period of 15 years in July of 2004 between KHVFD and the Clay County Board of County Commissioners. This agreement provided for Clay County to renovate the current two story building owned by KHVFD at 120 Flamingo Street, and have both entities serve the community from one facility.  It also provided a contract for service so that KHVFD could continue to provide fire protection and BLS services to the County. Clay County has yet to act upon the renovation and has already made plans to move to another location separate from KHVFD. Significant funds have been expended by Clay County to renovate the building under the contract. Today the paid crews of Clay County still reside in the building purchased and provided by KHVFD, at no cost to Clay County, for over 29 years. In the last few years Clay County has added career staffing of two per ambulance at Camp Blanding St. 25 and McRae St. 23. In addition, career staff relocated to Engine 23 in October of 2012. This provides 4 career employees at each station per shift. (Stations 25, 23, and 11).


During the reign of Clay County Chief Frank Ennist, the Rescue unit ID in Keystone went from Rescue 75 to Rescue 10. Once Chief Lorin Mock took the position of Fire Chief of Clay County in 2009, he changed the entire station to Station 11 in an effort to provide a means of separation between the paid crews of Clay County and Station 10. Chief Mock then moved a brush truck from station 23 to Station 11 and began recruiting volunteers for Clay County while living in the facility provided by KHVFD. This began the downward spiral of the cohesive working relationship that existed prior to his employment. He then began forcing compensation and discipline to those members of KHVFD that were employed by Clay County Fire Rescue based on his opinion of the contract in place today. This caused many hardships for the community. First, 10 of the 12 “two hatters” resigned from KHVFD for fear of retaliation from Clay County while on the job. Second, KHVFD lost a significant amount of experienced, trained, and devoted members that served in positions from Firefighter to Assistant Chief of KHVFD.  Then Clay County imposed discipline to an employee for an action that took place while volunteering for KHVFD. This discipline resulted in the demotion of two ranks (Lieutenant to Firefighter) and 22% loss of salary to this individual. During the same time period, Chief Mock ordered the relocation of the majority of the paid members of CCFR to other stations in the county because they were also members of KHVFD. Currently there are two members of KHVFD that are employed with Clay County Fire Rescue. There have been 3 resignations since December 2012 from KHVFD because Clay County staff advised them that the County would not hire them if they were on the KHVFD volunteer roster.


KHVFD sought an opinion from the Department of Labor in Washington DC regarding the rules and regulations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and how it applied to the relationship between KHVFD and Clay County. The letter states that the DOL does not offer opinions any longer and that KHVFD would have to seek legal advice to resolve this. In May of 2010 KHVFD and Kevin Lee Mobley filed an action against Clay County so that there could be a resolution to this issue. This case is still active with no resolution in sight. Mark Scruby, the County’s attorney agreed with the opinions in case law and Division of labor as noted in his letter to Chief Lorin Mock that the employees of Clay County were not required to be compensated under the Fair Labor Standards Act while volunteering with KHVFD. With some extensive research we found that in 1993 Clay County had already sought a legal opinion about the relationship between KHVFD and CCFR when it comes to the Fair Labor Standards Act and it included other departments within Clay County. This was all paid for by county tax dollars and now those funds are being spent again to get the same answer.


KHVFD currently provides a roster of 42 active volunteer firefighters and support staff members. KHVFD maintains, purchases, and repairs all of its fleet of 8 firefighting vehicles which include 2 Engines, 2 Brush trucks, 1 Tanker/Pumper, 1 SUV, 1 training car, and one ATV. These members are trained at a minimum level according to the standards set forth by the State of Florida and most of the members are employed with other agencies such as Putnam County, St. Johns County and Marion County. KHVFD purchases is own personal protective gear (which costs over $3,500.00 per member), uniforms, provides initial and annual training as required, and operates on a budget of less than $60,000 per year. All income to KHVFD is obtained through private donations and grants. Chief Mock estimated that KHVFD costs the County approximately $93,000.00 annually under the current contract. In April of 2013 that cost will be reduced by $19,000.00 a year due to the payoff of the Tender as cited in the contract. Clay County risk management estimated that the workers compensation, auto insurance, and liability insurance for KHVFD costs around $45,000.00 of the $93,000.00 amount annually. KHVFD board of directors offered to provide their own workers compensation, auto insurance, and liability insurance at a cost of $17,000.00 a year thus creating a savings in the cost of this insurance and releasing the County from the liability of providing such insurance.  Chief Mock and County Manager have refused this savings. The contract indicates that the County “shall pay for” (not provide) such insurance. This insurance provided the members of KHVFD with more benefits than what Clay County currently provides. With the savings listed and the diligence of KHVFD members to conserve energy and operational costs, the current contract could be decreased by as much as $47,000.00 annually.


As the County Manager indicates in her memo, the County has no desire to renovate the building at 120 Flamingo Street. KHVFD acknowledged this desire during the leadership of Chief Ennist and offered Clay County the parcel of land at 135 Flamingo Street for free.  KHVFD then offered to demolish the building at 120 Flamingo Street and let the County build a new station to house both entities. Clay County has refused both of those offers. It would be interesting to see how many times in the last 10 years significant capital funding has been approved in Clay County’s budget for the construction of a Fire Station in Keystone Heights which has not been completed..


As you can see, KHVFD provides to Clay County much more in value than it costs the County under the contract and a significant savings to the taxpayers. After April 2013, the contractual obligations of the County under the current contract could cost under $50,000.00 a year for a roster of 42 volunteers and all of the equipment it provides and operates to supplement the career firefighters of Clay County. Also keep in mind the manpower and equipment at KHVFD is figured into the County’s ISO rating and without KHVFD the ISO ratings and insurance savings to the community would significantly be affected. I encourage you to do some research on the value of this contract in order to arrive at a financially responsible decision before acting upon the County Managers memo.