The Windsor Fire Department is threatening to withdraw fire protection service from neighbouring communities in West Hants as a money dispute with the municipality flares up.

"Members were very clear that this was their only option," Scott Burgess, chief of the department, said Thursday.

He added that the "the uncertainty they have experienced for a long time [was] compounded by lack of payment and contract for services."

The Windsor Fire Department is not operated by Windsor, but by a society contracted to provide fire protection to Windsor and West Hants.

The contract with West Hants lapsed and has gone unpaid for more than a year. Estimates for how much is owed range from $600,000 to $1 million. 

West Hants says it wants greater accountability.    

'Members were very clear that this was their only option.' - Fire Chief Scott Burgess

Burgess said without payment and a contract, it will stop providing fire service after June 30. 

The West Hants council is holding an emergency meeting Friday to discuss the situation. 

The municipality was expected to rescind a motion passed last week to formally end a 60-year arrangement to share fire services with Windsor.

It planned to start its own fire department, but the potential cost ran into the millions. Critics worried that would drive up property taxes and insurance rates. 

Province steps in

The provincial government got involved this week. 

"I've extended the opportunity to consider a mediator for those circumstances," said Mark Furey, the municipal affairs minister

West Hants Warden Richard Dauphinee wants to give mediation a try. He wants council to put plans for an independent fire department on hold during mediation. 

The Windsor Fire Department expressed optimism over the talks. 

"I need to stress that our membership are more than willing to discuss mediation from the province once we see what is being offered," said Burgess. "We strongly feel anything that can move this matter to a positive conclusion."