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Winlaw volunteer fire fighters return to work
The Winlaw fire chief’s disciplinary suspension has been revoked and fire fighters who walked off the job in protest are back on duty.
After a meeting held with officials from the Regional District of Central Kootenay Thursday night, the issue involving the suspension of Chief Jon Wollenberg was resolved enough to satisfy the department that refused service earlier this week.
The three-month suspension of the Winlaw chief came after Wollenberg refused to have his members provide traffic control during a large public meeting on the Lemon Creek jet fuel spill. Regional chief Terry Swan cited “insubordination” for “willingly disobeying a direct order.”
The department balked at being told to carry out non-emergency duties. Following the suspension, his members showed solidarity by refusing to respond to fire calls.
In a statement issued by Wollenberg at that time, he said he understands the necessity of having a chain of command due to the seriousness of fire fighting.
“However if no emergency exist I do not believe the Regional Fire Chief should demand actions from volunteer firefighters,” he wrote. “I believe that demanding a volunteer fire department respond to a nonemergency goes against the principals of what this group has volunteered to accomplish… The members of the Winlaw Fire Department support this opinion and believe I have done nothing wrong in refusing to respond to a nonemergency event.”
During the time when Winlaw fire department was off the job, Passmore and Slocan Fire Departments had confirmed they’d respond to calls.
At the Thursday night meeting, it was decided to refer the issue to a committee of four RDCK Fire Chiefs who will report back to the Chief Administrative Officer.
“The RDCK values the work of our volunteer fire fighters,” said Brian Carruthers, chief administrative officer. “I am pleased that we were able to find a resolution to this issue and to have the fire fighters in Winlaw return to serving their community.”
Area H director Walter Popoff said he is grateful the issue was handled promptly resulting in a swift return of active duty to the department.
“The volunteers and their fire chief are to be commended for their dedication and service to the community,” he said.