Dryden firefighters' return-to-work deadline approaches

Some of Dryden's volunteer firefighters have until noon today to let the city know if they'll be returning to work.

Firefighters must inform city if they'll be returning to their jobs by noon Friday

Some of Dryden's volunteer firefighters have until Friday at noon to decide if they're returning to work. (www.dryden.ca)

Some of Dryden's volunteer firefighters have until noon today to let the city know if they'll be returning to work.

If not, the city will consider their positions vacated, effectively firing them.

That's according to a letter sent by the city this week to 37 of its volunteer firefighters, who withdrew their services in late February due to reported tension between them and Fire Chief Ryan Murrell.

A source — who the CBC has agreed not to identify because of risk to his current position and other possible employment within Dryden —  said the issue stems from the recent firing of three volunteer firefighters.

The source said the Dryden fire fighters association requested Murrell be placed on temporary leave.

City of Dryden supports fire chief

Dryden chief administrative officer Ernie Remillard wouldn't confirm the specifics of the dispute's origins, saying he can't comment on any human resources issues; however, a media release issued by Dryden on Thursday afternoon states "the City of Dryden supports Fire Chief Ryan Murrell."

"The fire association chose to withhold their service, when they did not like it when we were enforcing some of our code of conduct policies and things of that nature," he said.

As for the letter, Remillard said there has been some response.

"We haven't compiled all the numbers yet," he said. "But some individuals are responding that they are going to return."

Remillard said the letter was a matter for the city to address concerns over fire coverage in the city.

"When an alarm goes off, we need to know who is coming, and who is not," the media release states. "We have asked everyone to clarify where they stand."

New hires help with fire coverage

The firefighters participating in the walk-out are all based out of Dryden's Fire Hall # 1.

Remillard said the city has taken steps to ensure it has full fire coverage despite the temporary drop in personnel. The fire departments in nearby Oxdrift and Wabigoon are providing firefighting support, and the city has hired four new firefighters on short-term contracts.

"The Ontario Fire Marshall feels good about what we've done to protect the community, and we feel that our service is where we need it today, so in the short term we've mitigated our risks," Murrell said. "We'll continue to analyze and watch, and we'll reassess."