Firefighters and paramedics in rural Yukon communities will have a new employer, as the territorial government has announced that it will take over responsibility for emergency response services from most municipalities.

Community Services Minister Archie Lang announced the change during his keynote address at the Association of Yukon Communities' annual general meeting in Dawson City, Yukon, over the weekend.

Currently, incorporated towns in rural Yukon handle their own fire and paramedic services. That responsibility will soon belong to the territorial government, Lang said.

"My initial response was I was shocked," Jim Regimbald, the longtime fire chief in Dawson City, Yukon, told CBC News on Monday.

"It's news that came out of left field. I've never heard of it before."

Financial concerns

Government officials said they are responding to Our Towns, Our Future, a report that includes themes and measures meant to help save municipalities money.

But Regimbald, who was recently honoured as Yukon's municipal employee of the year, said he hopes financial concerns will not trump the safety of Yukoners.

"There's been no plan put forward. I mean, if there's a plan out there, I'd like to see it," he said. "I mean, I really understand that it's in the initial phases."

Firefighters and paramedics in the capital city of Whitehorse will not be affected.

Meanwhile, the major changes will not happen without significant consultations, said Yukon fire marshal Dennis Barry.

"Really we want to augment, to make a more robust system," Berry said.

The territorial government says it will take at least 36 months before it fully takes over rural emergency services.