Victoria Beach firefighters delay resignation vote for another week
Volunteer firefighters threatened to walk off the job after fire chief terminated
Volunteer firefighters in the rural municipality of Victoria Beach have agreed to delay a vote that will determine whether or not they will resign, the acting fire chief Wolf Kraft told CBC News.
The 22 members met Monday evening and were supposed to decide then but Kraft said they agreed to put off the vote until next Wednesday — a day after the RM's council meeting.
Kraft said firefighters and community residents plan to attend the council meeting in hopes they can convince the RM to reinstate their fire chief Brad Patzer.
Patzer — who is also the community's emergency measures co-ordinator and health and safety officer — had been working as a volunteer firefighter for 30 years, and was the acting fire chief for the last 12 years before he was fired last week.
"The fire department feels that he has done nothing wrong and should not have been fired," said Deputy Fire Chief Wolf Kraft.
Members of the volunteer fire department threatened to walk off the job in protest if Patzer isn't reinstated.
Their decision will impact as many as 10,000 residents and cottagers in the RM of Victoria Beach and the RM of Alexander, where the firefighters responds to both fire and medical calls.
Kraft told CBC News Monday evening that the Reeve is still refusing to reverse the RM's termination of Patzer.
About 200 people attended a rally and emergency town hall meeting Sunday in an effort to pressure the RM to reverse its decision. Kraft said the reeve and all five council members were invited but none of them showed up.
In a statement issued on the RM's website, Victoria Beach Reeve Brian Hodgson said Patzer was fired as a result of an ongoing conflict.
"For several months Mr. Patzer refused to communicate with the RM in the manner expected of an employee tasked with multiple and significant responsibilities," the statement said.
Hodgson said officials tried unsuccessfully on several occasions to reach out to Patzer and resolve the issues but their efforts were ignored.
"This ongoing refusal to communicate and co-operate with the RM was not acceptable. This behaviour placed the RM at increased risk of liability and was not proper or acceptable in an employee/employer relationship," the statement said.
The answer doesn't sit well with Kraft.
"You don't take an HR or workplace issue between personalities and people and fire your chief over it. It think this shows very poor leadership in the part of our reeve," said Kraft.
CBC News reached out to Hodgson on Sunday and Monday to find out whether council planned to reinstate Patzer, but the call was not returned.
The 22-member fire department will vote Monday evening to decide whether the firefighters should remain on duty.
"Basically we feel that council is now holding the fire department over a barrel and holding the community at ransom because of a decision that I feel that they made that wasn't correct," said Kraft.
Kraft said he's tried at least five times to get council to sit down and discuss the issues, but they refused.
"This is a conflict that I feel should have been able to be resolved without going to this point," he said.
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