Entire volunteer fire department resigns in Gogama

All members of the volunteer fire department in Gogama have submitted their resignations.

11 person department set to step down effective Dec. 1

The entire volunteer fire department in Gogama has submitted their resignation en masse. (Jean-Loup Doudard/Radio-Canada)

All members of the volunteer fire department in Gogama have submitted their resignations.

Eleven firefighters, including chief Mike Benson, say they're quitting effective Dec. 1.

Benson says since 2015, tensions have been escalating between him and the Local Services Board, a group of elected officials in the community.

Three years ago, a CN train derailed, spilling oil in the nearby Makami River.

Benson says he was outspoken in calling for CN to clean up the spill, and he says he was criticized for abusing his authority.

Since then, Benson says he's been the subject of lies and harassment.

"It's taken a toll on my health, it's taken a toll on everybody's morale in the department certainly," he said.

Mike Benson says problems started between him and the Local Services Board after a major train derailment in 2015. (Jean-Loup Doudard/Radio-Canada)

"If you're not appreciated, why would you come at four o'clock in the morning for free if nobody appreciates you doing it."

Benson says he's not an employee of the community, rather the Office of the Fire Marshal, meaning the Local Services Board isn't able to fire him.

He says he's sad and disappointed the situation has gotten to this point.

"It has befallen the firefighters as well," he said.

"Morale is terrible in the department. I can't get new members. For months, we've been sitting on pins and needles. Everybody is just fed up."

Daniel Mantha, the chair of the Local Services Board, refuses to comment.

Art Booth with the Office of the Fire Marshal says it will try to find other volunteers within Gogama to replace the ones who have left. He says they will probably not be operational by Dec 1st however, because it takes time to do appropriate training.

With files from Jean-Loup Doudard


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