Thunder Bay

City of Dryden looks to get new volunteers after stalemate with firefighters association

Volunteer firefighters in Dryden, Ont., say they are in a stalemate situation after city councillors voted down a proposal to hold a public discussion on what to do with the community's fire service.

City will attempt to recruit new volunteers to bolster fire department ranks

The dispute between the City of Dryden and the Dryden Firefighters Association centres around the ability to lease out the club room, and the city's alcohol policy at Fire Hall Number One. (Dryden.ca)

Volunteer firefighters in Dryden, Ont., say they are in a stalemate situation after city councillors voted down a proposal to hold a public discussion on what to do with the community's fire service.

The two sides are still at an impasse, after the Dryden Firefighters Association attempted to lease out the club room in the basement of Fire Hall Number One. The lease was an attempt to circumvent the city's new alcohol policy, that was passed by Dryden council at the end of 2017. The policy came into effect in early 2018. 

"Why would you ever vote against a conversation, or a discussion to make an informed decision," said Darren Trist, the negotiator with the Dryden Firefighters Association.

"That kind of politics is just garbage," he added, reacting to the outcome of the Monday night council meeting.

"We went to council and we asked for open negotiations, and they said that was a great idea. And then they just sent in city administration to close the room," said Trist.

The two sides have gone back and forth numerous times, but the two sides started to get into a dispute after three Dryden Firefighters were fired from the job in early February. The Dryden Firefighters Association then suspended its services on Feburary 22nd, and volunteers have been off the job ever since.

"They had no intention of keeping the room open. They had no intention of an honest and open discussion. Why didn't they just say it? They could have just said it, we could have moved on, nobody would have been fired, nobody had to sit there and lie to each other for two months."

Trist said volunteers no longer trust the Fire Chief, city administration, or city council to follow up with their concerns on the operations of the department.

Those same volunteers are who the city hopes to recruit back, so that it once again has a full complement of firefighters.

"I want to thank the firefighters who have stayed on, and the firefighters who didn't sign on will reconsider and sign on again, and will have a bit of a change of heart, a change of mind," said Greg Wilson, the Mayor of Dryden.

"If some of them would want to sign on again that would be terriffic."

Wilson said the city is looking at its options when it comes to firefighting. He said the goal is to once again have a full complement of volunteer firefighters, Currently, the city has four new recruits for firefighting, who are working on a contract basis.

"As far as I understand there are a number of different models we can look at, and the preferred one would be to have a good contingent of volunteers."

Trist said he doubts that will work to get the department once again to its full complement. He said it was difficult in the past to recruit new fire department members, which will only be more challenging after the current battle between the city and the association.

"To say we reached this decision over a beer fridge is beyond insulting and to us it's just one more piece of evidence of how much you take us for granted," Trist said in a prepared statement at Monday night's council meeting.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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