New Brunswick

Volunteer firefighters march after mould shutters their hall

Volunteer firefighters in Grande-Anse marched this weekend over the need for more funding after a mould infestation closed their fire hall.

Grande-Anse's leaky old fire hall was so infested with mould, it was invading firefighters' breathing gear

Persistent mould forced the Grand-Anse fire chief to shutter the fire hall in September for safety reasons. (Submitted: Michel Landry)

Volunteer firefighters in Grande-Anse have abandoned their fire hall after years of struggling with persistent leaks and the resulting mould. 

The Grande-Anse volunteer fire department serves about 2,100 people along 18 kilometres of Highway 11 in northern New Brunswick.

In September, the department's chief pulled his volunteers out of the 47-year-old building because of health concerns. 

'Breathing mould in from our air packs'

"The whole building is just rotting from the inside out," said fire Chief Rodney Whelton.

Attempts to repair the damage have been made a few times, but the steel dome building had become so degraded, water leaked through everything, Whelton said.

He said mould was getting into the volunteers' gear, making it a safety risk.

"We were actually breathing mould in from our air packs," said Whelton, who decided enough was enough.

He said the mayor told him in August that a decision about moving into a new building had been moved back.

Frustrated after trying to sort the issue out for years, Whelton gave one month's notice before vacating the building in September.

Marching for a new hall 

Whelton said the village has made a commitment to getting a new building, but he worries about the burden it will put on the community's small tax base.

He would like to see the village along with the provincial and federal governments each pay a third of the cost.

On Saturday, members of the volunteer fire department marched to raise public awareness of the issue.

About 200 people showed up to march in support of the firefighters who want to see proper funding for a new fire hall. (Submitted: Michel Landry)

Whelton said 200 people showed up in support, along with members of neighbouring detachments that Grande-Anse often aids during emergencies.

Since the fire hall was closed, the firefighters have been working out of a municipal garage. But it isn't ideal for their needs either, according to Whelton.

'It's a really bad spot'

"We don't have no water for one thing," he said, noting a department tank that holds 7,000 gallons (about 26,500 litres) for filling trucks is still at the the old fire hall.

Whelton also has safety concerns about pedestrians because of the temporary location's close proximity to a school and an arena.

"It's a really bad spot," he said. 

Whelton said a long-term solution needs to be found or the community risks losing its department altogether. 

"By next summer, if there's nothing happening," Whelton said, "the brigade's going to disappear." The firefighters would simply return their pagers and walk away, he said.

"It's not a threat, because nobody wants to do this, but that's where we're at."

About the Author

Matthew Bingley is a CBC reporter based in Saint John.