Missing girl's mother accuses firefighters of refusing to help
by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News Posted on December 15, 2010 at 9:41 PM Updated yesterday at 10:52 PM
MCCLEARY, Wash. -- A controversy is brewing in McCleary, where Lindsey Baum disappeared 18 months ago. The group helping with the search is upset with local firefighters, accusing them of refusing to help find the missing girl.
"This Christmas will be 18 months that my daughter has been missing. I'm not going to let her be forgotten," says Melissa Baum, Lindsey's mother.
Lindsey disappeared in June 2009, walking home from a friend's house. Numerous searches for her have come up empty. Her mother works endlessly to find her.
Melissa remembered that this Saturday will be the McCleary Firefighters Assocation's annual holiday procession called "Santa Through Town." They decorate their fire engine with lights and pass out candy canes in an effort to collect food for a sponsored family in need.
"Very popular event. Well supported throughout the community," says Assistant Chief Paul Notts.
Because the procession travels down almost every street in town, Baum's mother hoped it could help publicize her cause.
"It wasn't going to cost them anything," says Baum. "It wasn't going to take any of their time. We were just going to add to something they were already going to do."
The firefighters were asked to hand out candy canes with Lindsey's picture and to hang a banner of the missing girl on their rig. But the firefighters declined.
"Our event is really geared toward people going through an unfortunate time and to blend the two really doesn't fit," says Notts.
"I was actually shocked. I thought the fire department would be supportive," says Melissa.
The town's volunteer firefighters say they want to help find Lindsey, but their procession, a 15-year tradition, needs to stay focused on helping the family they sponsor.
"We'd be more than happy to assist the Lindsey Baum camp, but it can't happen in this event," says Notts.
"Why can't they do both?" Melissa asks.
The dispute has both sides suffering community backlash. But they agree on one thing: their causes should not compete with each other.
A vigil for Linsdey is this Saturday, Dec. 18 at 4 p.m. at Beerbower Park in McCleary. The firefighters annual procession starts at 5 p.m. the same night.