Three of five people charged this week with starting fires in the central New Brunswick community of Doaktown have been volunteer firefighters, according to the fire chief.

Scott Stewart said one volunteer was let go last January, while the other two were suspended indefinitely in March. 

Stewart defended the integrity of the community's volunteer fire department.

"It hurts, but you have to move on," he said. "And I believe, at the end of the day, I have full confidence in our department, and I believe that we still have a professional job to do, and we're trained to do that, and we will continue to do so. It's a bump in the road, but it's something we'll have to deal with."

He said there is a proper screening process when people come forward to become volunteer firefighters.

They must go through a thorough application process, which includes a criminal record check, the chief said.

Stewart said the central New Brunswick village of about 1,000 people had not lost faith in the fire department.

'Morale is still high'

"There may be some people who look at the negative aspect," Stewart said.

"Our morale is still high and we still try to stay active in the community."

Troy Ward, 25, of Blissfield, Terrence Murray Ryder, 25, of Fredericton, and Doaktown residents Leo Murray Veno, 28, Thomas Francis Colford, 24, and Sherry Story, 39, were all charged Monday with arson.

The fire chief declined to say which of the accused were members of his department.

All five are scheduled to appear in court in Miramichi on Dec. 13.

Investigators determined that fires set at several homes and a business in November 2008 and the same month in 2009 in the Doaktown area were arson.

'Small town' talk

Although the fires date back to 2008 and 2009, Stewart said he only became aware of the investigation earlier this year.

"[Doaktown is] a small town, people talk, it became obvious that they were under question and investigation by the RCMP," he said in an interview.

Stewart said he cannot speculate on the motives of the people charged with the arsons.

The loss of the three volunteer firefighters is having an impact on the local service, according to Stewart.

There are normally 18 volunteer members of fire service. Stewart said the reduction to 15 members is considered "borderline" with the Office of the Fire Marshal.

However, Doaktown has agreements with Upper Miramichi and Blackville that call for the communities to share resources when they are needed.