Vonda without local fire department until new chief hired
An ongoing dispute between Vonda’s town council and volunteer fire department has left the community of about 400 people without a local fire service.
At a council meeting Tuesday night, the town confirmed that there will be no local fire services until a new fire chief is hired. In the meantime, fire crews from neighbouring towns of Aberdeen and Prud’homme — each about a 10-minute drive away — will be responding to emergencies in Vonda. Aberdeen will do so until Aug. 19, and Prud’homme until Sept. 15.
“I’m kind of surprised that we don’t have a fire chief appointed or somebody to take care of our town for fire,” said Mike Edling, a resident who was at the meeting.
“You go home, you take your kids to bed and you hope to God nothing happens.”
This move comes after a lengthy dispute between both parties. The acting chief and firefighters accused the town of micromanaging, and asked to have more control. There had been some mediation to resolve the issues, but the town claimed the firefighters weren’t taking the process seriously and it fired the mediator. The fire department then pursued legal action, eventually saying it would cease services effective July 15 if the town didn’t go back to mediation.
“This needs to be resolved, like soon,” said Edling.
Mark Simon is another resident unhappy with council’s decision. His home is 50 feet away from a fire that destroyed an auto repair shop in the town in January. He credited swift action by local firefighters for evacuating his family and keeping the fire away from his house.
“We need them, there’s no doubt. We need them,” said Simon.
“Having a south wind, it was coming our way, but those guys were there.”
The town advertised for the new fire chief position Monday. It will be accepting applications until Aug. 16, and it will be interviewing potential candidates Aug. 21.
“Even though they put the application out for a fire chief, there are some very capable fire chiefs in town that would take the job in a heartbeat. They just need to get around the mediation and get things resolved,” said Edling.
CTV News was at the meeting Tuesday, in which a motion was passed to bar filming. CTV News also asked for a comment from the mayor and councilors, all of whom declined to comment.