Carbon Fire Department suspended by Council

CFD 2013

The Council of the Village of Carbon met for a special council meeting on the morning of January 29, 2018, voting to “suspend the operations of its fire department due to personnel issues”, confirmed John Brodrick, CAO for Carbon. Mayor Guss Nash was considered ‘in attendance’ at the meeting, by Skyping in from his Hawaii vacation. A phone call made to the Mayor resulted in a “No Comment.” Mr. Brodrick advises that Council and Administration cannot speak publicly on the issue due to FOIP regulations and the Municipal Government Act (MGA) with regard to personnel issues. “Therefore the issues relating to the closure will not be discussed either by Council or administration.” This decision comes four days before Carbon’s bi-election to fill one vacancy (voting this Friday, Feb. 2 at the Village Office.)

For those community members calling the Village office for answers, they will not therefore, receive satisfaction. There were complaints on social media. “Shutting the fire department is not what is good for Carbon and the taxpayers,” wrote Cindy Morgan. “The fire department has a great bunch of volunteers that go out to every call.” She further wrote that as taxpayers, they should be informed, to include discussion for any major decisions made by Council or the CAO. “Council and the CAO thinks this is a good idea; they really need to think again.” Added Ms. Dowling, “Transparent and fair, they said. Where (or what) is the transparency and reasoning for this decision?”

The County and Kneehilll County Reeve, Jerry Wittstock were notified Jan 30, Tuesday morning “that effective immediately, and until further notice, the Village of Carbon has placed the operational status of the Carbon Fire Department on hold.” Said, Reeve Wittstock, “We don’t know if this is temporary, or whether it’s permanent. We don’t know if or when or how its going to be resolved. What is important to us, is that with Carbon no longer able to serve that area, we have to make sure that our residents are taken care of. There has been an agreement put in place to have the fire departments of Acme, Linden and Drumheller cover the Carbon fire area (though Drumheller has always had a portion of the area).

Reeve Wittstock explained that each municipality is in control of its own fire department. The County is responsible for Torrington because it is a hamlet. “Our only involvement in this situation is that the County does have Master Fire Agreements with those Villages and Towns to contract fire service in those particular areas and we pay a portion for that service. With the fire departments of Acme and Carbon we, as the County give about $42,000 each to their communities per year for those fire services to our rural residences. Linden and Three Hills get a bit more funding because the County chose those two departments to fulfill our rescue services.” So the County had no say in the situation with the Village of Carbon or Carbon Fire Department, except being obliged to immediately locate protective services for its own residents.

In speaking with Carbon’s Fire Chief, Marty Morgan, he was only just learning of the situation the same as ratepayers. Mr. Morgan is unaware of any particular issues that could have brought about this drastic response, except to say that he and two other department members were asked about the fire department’s jaws of life in a meeting last week with the CAO. “This equipment is worth about $30,000. These items were paid for by fire department volunteers and as a fire department, this is equipment that is needed. Beyond this, I have no explanation.” Mr. Morgan advises that he has been in contact with Municipal Affairs and will be putting together a petition to reverse the decision of removing himself as Fire Chief and for closing the fire hall.

There was a new bylaw voted on at the Carbon Council emergency meeting, which gives the Village of Carbon full say on naming the Fire Chief. This would be unusual, as it has been the ‘legal’ practice for Councils to ratify their Fire Department’s choice for Fire Chief, but not actually pick them themselves. However, no community council is obliged to ratify a chosen Fire Chief and could ask the Fire Department to name another.

Said the Carbon CAO, “Council wishes to have these concerns addressed in the near future so the department can once again resume their proper role in the community. We believe that once the department is reactivated we will have a department working closely with the Village of Carbon and it’s neighbours to provide excellent services to our residents and surrounding area.”