More than a dozen Manitoba fire chiefs are demanding the province put the STARS air ambulance back into service.

The service was grounded in December after a number of critical incidents, including one where one patient died, and another was left brain damaged.

Last month fire chiefs from the Eastman Mutual Aid Fire District (EMAFD), which covers 9,000 square kilometers in the southeastern part of Manitoba and is represented by 18 fire halls, sent a letter to Health Minister Erin Selby demanding the return of STARS.

"The district would like to express their concern over the extensive and unnecessary grounding of the STARS program. The suspension of STARS creates a serious void in our emergency medical response system," the letter states.

Alain Nadeau, fire chief for La Broquerie and co-ordinator for EMAFD, said the province sent the group an email on Tuesday, saying more information about STARS will be sent later.

But there's no indication when that could be, Nadeau said.

“We have no time line on it. We're actually scared that it's going to disappear altogether if we're not vocal about it," he said, noting the nine chiefs in the West Central Fire District also sent a letter to the province demanding the return of STARS.

Nadeau said the chiefs are worried there could be deaths if STARS isn't re-instated.

"We don't want to lose this tool. I mean, you can't ground a rescue service that saves lives like STARS just because you're investigating an alleged critical incident," he said.

Letter to Erin Selby

February 14, 2014

The Honourable Erin Selby, M.L.A.

Minister of Health

Dear Minister,

The district would like to express their concern over the extensive and unnecessary grounding of the STARS program. The suspension of STARS creates a serious void in our emergency medical response system.

In most cases rural Volunteer Fire Fighters cannot save a life by themselves…

In most cases a Manitoba First Responder cannot save lives by themselves…

In most cases a Manitoba Primary Care Paramedic cannot save lives by themselves…

And yes, even STARS cannot save a life by themselves…

It is together as a team that the Volunteer Fire Fighters and First Responders of our communities can access a serious crash and/or traumatic scene quickly and stabilize our victims. It is together as a team that we rely on our Paramedics to arrive on scene to take over for us with their professional skills. It is also with them that we can assess the seriousness of the event and dispatch the advanced life saving skills and equipment that we have with STARS.

In many cases it is only with the speed and advanced care paramedic skills of STARS that we can achieve what we call the “golden hour”. In many cases STARS is the only chance we have in making the difference between life and death for our citizens in their time of need.

Please help us do the best we can for our communities and our people.

Please but STARS back in service immediately.

Dominion City Fire Chief…………………….……….Barry Gushuliak

La Broquerie Fire Chief……………………………….Alain Nadeau

Niverville Fire Chief………………………….……….Keith Bueckert

Piney Fire Chief……………………………………….Harold Grawberger

Sprague Fire Chief…………………………………….Bill Ross

Woodridge Fire Chief………………………...……….Troy Pesterak

St Anne Fire Chief……………………………………..Ken Dayment

Richer Fire Chief………………………………………Paul Saidon

Reynolds Fire Chief…………………………..……….Tom Nixon

Lorette Fire Chief……………………………………...Tim Graham

Landmark Fire Chief…………………………………..Pete Skjaerlund

Ste Genvieve Fire Chief……………………………….Yvon Legal

Ritchot Fire Chief (St Adolphe & Ile Des Chenes)……Troy Ash

Vita Fire Chief…………………………………………Bob Fosty

St Malo Fire Chief……………………………………..Jason Remillard

St Pierre Fire Chief…………………………………….Pat Laroche

Southeast Whiteshell Fire Chief……………………….Bruce Morrison