Spaniard's Bay fire department to be rebuilt from the ashes
Brenda Seymour says she feels exonerated, relieved
First, there was an apology. Now, the Town of Spaniard's Bay has begun the process of rebuilding its shattered fire department following a scandal that thrust the Conception Bay North town into the national spotlight.
Several prospective members picked up applications from the town hall on Tuesday, beginning the slow process of restoring the town's ability to respond to fires and other emergencies.
"We have to start from the ashes and work our way up," Mayor Tony Menchions told the St. John's Morning Show on Wednesday.
A week of tension, media coverage
The all-volunteer fire department collapsed in disarray on Jan. 19 during an explosive town council meeting.
About 20 members turned in their emergency pagers as tensions climaxed over allegations by the brigade's only female member, Brenda Seymour, that she had been subjected to sexual harassment and mistreatment.
Seymour is also a town councillor.
Sheri Collins also stepped down from council. She was the town's liaison with the fire department, and has not spoken publicly since her sudden departure, though it's well-known that Collins and Seymour did not see eye-to-eye.
After a week of tension and extensive media coverage, the town issued a news release Tuesday, with Menchions offering an apology to Seymour "for instances of sexual harassment which she has endured."
Seymour said during an interview with Here & Now Tuesday she felt exonerated by the apology, and expressed hope that a commitment by the town to a zero tolerance policy on harassment would help avoid future controversies.
"That apology means a lot of stuff to a lot of women, not just myself," she said.
Council will select a new chief
Along with the apology came a plan to restore fire protection services, with the town issuing a general call for volunteers, including to those who quit.
Menchions said the town council will select a new chief, and he or she will work in conjunction with council to fill out the remaining ranks.
That's a clear message to ex-chief Victor Hisock that he is not a shoo-in for the job.
Hiscock, who was criticized by Seymour for his leadership abilities, has not commented on the controversy.
Menchions said he wants the department reactivated as soon as possible, and said the process will likely take weeks.
As for the town's damaged reputation, Menchions said it will likely take much longer to restore.
"That's a long road. A long, hard road," he said.
"[We've] got to try to do things better. We almost got to set an example."
Seymour said she wants to be part of the rebuilding process, despite criticism from some ex-firefighters that she was part of the problem, and a groundswell of support in the community for the the men who quit.
Ross Snow, a former fire captain, lashed out at Seymour in a Facebook post on Tuesday, accusing Seymour of harassment and a range of other wrongdoings.
"Allow the firefighters to assume their roles and provide much-needed service and council to resume their roles and run our beautiful town accordingly," Snow wrote.