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Second volunteer firefighter arrested

A second Pike County volunteer firefighter has been charged with theft of property in an ongoing state investigation.

Clifton Davis, 40, was arrested Monday and charged with second-degree theft of property after allegedly taking $2,000 from the Pike County Fire and Rescue Unit, according to the State of Alabama Fire Marshal’s Office. He was released on $5,000 bond. Davis was the chief of that volunteer department.

“This is the second arrest to come out of that department,” said State Fire Marshal Scott Pilgreen. “Unfortunately, with that department (Pike County Fire and Rescue Unit) this is stemming from an ongoing investigation that has been going on for several months.”

John Register, the former head of the Pike County Firefighters Association, was charged in March 2018 with first-degree theft of property in conjunction with investigation.

Pilgren would not elaborate on details of the investigation, instead reiterating that it is ongoing.

He said the State Fire Marshal Office oversees approximately 1,070 fire departments in Alabama, and only a small percentage have theft issues. Funding and disbursement of funds is often handled internally by the volunteer organizations, which can lead to issues. “All the (volunteer) departments receive funding from different sources, whether public or government,” Pilgreen said. “Too often we have departments who are not applying good accounting practices and have people in the department who are using the money to their own gain. Unfortunately, it is not just Pike County, but the vast majority do a fine job of applying good accounting practices.”

The Alabama State Fire Marshal’s office encourages departments to use a form on its website or to outsource bookkeeping to accounting firms to keep departments from having problems.  “Departments don’t like doing that because it costs them money, but if you look at the bigger picture it is actually cheaper in the long run,” Pilgreen said. “Which is more expensive, paying basic fees for a CPA or having a member of a department misuse funds, which is happening in this case.”

Pilgreen believes that volunteers losing site of the reason they are there is why they run into volunteers breaking the law.

“I would encourage any member of any department in this county please look at what you are doing within your department,” Pilgreen expressed. “You have people in departments that think any monies that go through there belongs to them. I want to see it stopped.”