Many of Sundre Fire Department’s volunteers are poised to quit if their fire chief is not reinstated, says one firefighter.
Sundre Mayor Terry Leslie and other town officials were set to meet with firefighters on Wednesday evening to discuss the controversial dismissal of former fire chief Marty Butts.
Butts, who has been a volunteer firefighter for 34 years and spent the last 10 as chief, was let go last weekend and ordered to clean out his command vehicle. The locks and access codes to the fire hall were changed.
His abrupt departure caught firefighters by surprise. In a show of support about 20 volunteers joined Butts outside the fire hall Monday evening to protest the decision to let Butts go.
Firefighter Geoff Russell said on Wednesday morning about half of the 30-strong department is “100 per cent” behind Butts and insist that he be reinstated.
All of the firefighters want some answers about why he was let go.
“A lot of us are being left in the dark, which isn’t right,” said Russell, who has been a volunteer firefighter for 10 years.
“Hopefully tonight we get some resolve and a little bit of answers because if it doesn’t go the way a lot of senior guys are hoping its’s going to go, then there’s not going to be any senior guys left.
“After tonight, if things don’t change I don’t see the outcome being very good.”
Town resident Kim Dawson said the community is very proud of its fire department and there is widespread support for Butts’ leadership.
“I think the general sentiment is everyone was very much in support of Marty,” said Dawson. “They are scared of losing their fire department.
“It’s popular. It’s well-loved. They’re heroes. They’re home town heroes and Marty is like the chief hero.
“It’s like how could this happen? It’s shocking. It’s confusing. It’s frustrating. It’s sad. People are outraged and people are worried and they feel really betrayed by the town.”
Russell said many firefighters are not happy with how the town handled the issue and that they were not given the new access codes in a timely way leaving them unable to get inside to answer a call. An Olds fire department engine on standby responded instead.
“The way they went about this is absolutely wrong. They put a town at risk.”
Mayor Terry Leslie said in a statement on Tuesday that the fire department is “fully operational” and its members were never locked out of the fire hall.
“Firefighters have been contacted and remain fully supported by the town and county councils,” he said.
Mutual aid partners were contacted on Monday and service to Sundre remains unchanged. Behr Fire Services is also assisting the fire department.
A GoFundMe campaign has been started to help pay legal fees for Sundre’s fire chief who was recently fired in a controversial move that sparked local protests. About $2,400 had been collected towards the $25,000 goal on Wednesday.
“We as a community need to stick together and support this great man that has done everything for us,” says organizer Jared DeGray. If you live in Sundre or support local fire departments we all need to band together and help deserving this man out.”