MURRAY — The head of an organization whose mail flier was met by warnings of a possible scam when they appeared in Calloway County this week said Friday that this is not the first time this misunderstanding has happened.
However, Alan Bohms, who is the director of the Volunteer Firefighter Alliance, said Friday from the organization’s base in Knoxville, Tennessee that his organization is, in fact, legitimate and does not need to be feared.
“We were formed in 2014, so we’re just starting out and we’ve done a whole lot to help firefighters,” Bohms said a few days after a story was published in the Ledger & Times reporting how Calloway County Fire-Rescue was warning residents to be on the lookout for fliers from the Alliance after one was received by a resident in the mail Tuesday.
CCFR Chief Tommy Morgan also reported that he investigated the matter through an online search and found several articles online from news organizations that were reporting the Alliance as being part of scam activity.
Morgan could not be reached for further comment on Friday before press time.
“That’s happened to us a lot,” Bohms said of the reports. He said better communication would help clear up this problem, not only in Calloway County but in other locations. “The problem is nobody calls us back to check. All we ask is that if (fire officials) have a problem, they can contact me and say, ‘Hey! I’ve got concerns here!’”
Bohms said that if that did happen, a friend would be found, not a foe out to make a buck illegally.
“We are an actual 501(c)(3) organization and we are registered to solicit in every state where registration is required, which is about 38 or 39 states, and we’re helping a lot of departments, especially in Kentucky,” he said of how the Alliance is serving 46 departments in the commonwealth. “Also, we offer $10,000 for line-of-duty deaths benefits through The Hartford Company and, so far, we’ve got six firefighters in Kentucky that have those plans with us.”
Bohms also said the Alliance has helped recruit about 900 people to be volunteer firefighters in their communities. However, he said the biggest impact the Alliance is making is with fire prevention, specifically education.
He said one reason the Alliance was formed came from experiences with the department of which he is part in the Knoxville area.
“Our department only gets $6,000 a year, plus insurance that is paid by the county. So we’re sitting here thinking that we need materials for Fire Prevention Week in October and we budgeted $500 for that, which we suddenly got to thinking wasn’t probably a good idea for our budget,” he said. “We got to thinking, ‘Surely somebody can help us fund this material so we can go to schools and pass out these things.’
“We’re finding that’s the first thing (departments) skip because they won’t go to a school. It’s because maybe they don’t have anything to bring. The reason you go to a school to pass out these materials is because they go home with the kids and their parents see them and, believe it or not, that affects your ISO rating, which directly affects what your home’s insurance is going to be.”
Bohms also said the Alliance offers a crisis support line.
He said that, slowly, though still with hangups along the way, the Alliance is becoming more known. In fact, last year he said the Alliance had representatives at a state conference in Kentucky for the first time.
“When we go into those places, we’re met with, ‘Hey! We’ve never heard of you,’ so the reason you go to state conferences is to meet with people face to face and get to start knowing them,” he said.
The Alliance will be heading to conferences in Indiana and South Carolina next month, he said.
Calloway County Sheriff Sam Steger said Friday that while he has not viewed the flier in question, in talking to Morgan, he believes the wording contained might need to be adjusted.
“From what I was told, it sounds like it’s saying that money would be coming back to the local department, and that;’s a hang-up for me,” Steger said. “Now, they may be completely legitimate and are not a scam, but, from what I’m hearing, they need to work on their wording.”
Steger said that the one thing he wants is for CCFR to be protected.
“They are, hands down, one of the best, if not the best, departments that I’ve worked with. I’d put those guys against anyone,” he said. “It makes me kind of mad to think of a department like ours being taken advantage of.
“Again, they may be legitimate and doing good things, but I’d like to see where their money is going.”