British Columbia

Winlaw firefighters quit, protesting chief's suspension

A team of volunteer firefighters in the Slocan Valley has quit, protesting the recent suspension of their fire chief and leaving the town of Winlaw without fire protection.

Town of Winlaw recently evacuated after jet fuel spilled into Lemon Creek

The truck carrying 35,000 litres of jet fuel had been on its way to supply helicopters battling wildfires when it spilled into Lemon Creek last month. (CBC)

A team of volunteer firefighters in the Slocan Valley has quit, protesting the recent suspension of their fire chief and leaving the town of Winlaw without fire protection.

Winlaw's residents were recently evacuated after jet fuel spilled into Lemon Creek.

Fire chief Jon Wollenberg says he was suspended for at least three months because he refused to provide traffic control for a public meeting at the Winlaw hall in July to discuss the fuel spill.

After his suspension, his entire volunteer staff left in protest.

"Unfortunately, the other members felt it was important for them to step down and deny their community access fire services," said Brian Carruthers, spokesman for the Regional District of the Central Kootenays (RDCK).

"The RDCK is standing behind the action that it took and we are going to be meeting with the members of the Winlaw fire department that are interested in attending to discuss how we move forward to provide fire protection to the community."

Members of the Slocan and Passmore fire departments have agreed to cover for Winlaw in the interim.

Pedestrian killed

On Wednesday night, former Winlaw firefighter Jim Mattinson says he heard an emergency call about an accident involving a pedestrian.

Mattinson, who is one of the 19 firefighters who quit, was unable to respond to the call.

"There was a fatality no more than about 400 metres from my house last night. And we have the jaws of life, we have the equipment," he said.

"It wasn't a good thing, I mean, we weren't responding. And I don't feel very good about not responding to that."