The concerned citizens committee for Milton-George's Brook has issued an emergency public service announcement calling for community members who are interested in becoming volunteer firefighters to step forward.
The recently formed committee and emergency task force met April 3 to discuss the possible reinstatement of the community fire department. About 40 residents from both communities attended.
Moments after the meeting was called to order, a noisy kafuffle of conflicting opinions erupted.
Roger Hodder, recently nominated deputy chair of the emergency task force said the best course of action is to immediately contact the LSD committee and gain permission to enter the fire station to survey the equipment.
"Our hands are tied until we get written authority from the committee to go in there and find out if it's even feasible," said Hodder.
Milton resident and former fire chief Glen Baker disagreed. He said he's seen this all before.
"We need the volunteers, that's the biggest problem here in Milton-George's Brook, nothing else," said Baker.
In July, 2011, the Milton-George's Brook fire department ceased operation due to lack of members. Since then, the town of Clarenville has provided the community’s fire service.
"This has happened four or five times now, we get the department up to 20 members and within a couple of years it falls back down to five. We need to man the bloody fire department," shouted Baker.
Voices from the crowd called out in agreement.
Chairman of the committee Wilson Chaulk regained control of the meeting and reminded residents they were all there for the same reason.
"We're a community and we need that fire department running," said Chaulk
"If we want it to work, we need to work together."
Clarenville council has stated that as of April 30, they will no longer provide fire services for the communities.
Vice-chair of the committee Morgan Ellis said he's concerned that if the fire service is allowed to end, someone could end up standing in their garden with their hose in their hands watching their homes burn down.
"It's a scary thought," said Ellis.
Clarenville is willing to permanently extend fire services to the Milton-George's Brook communities, but It will cost each household $140 a year and the community will have to supply a 2,000 gallon tanker truck. Clarenville also requested updated street signage and maps of the communities.
"A deal like that with Clarenville doesn't make any sense, it's not what is best for this community. But they have us in a tough spot,” said Ellis.
Chaulk stood and took the floor again.
"If we don't have something in place by the last day of this month, this community may be forced to sign a contract with Clarenville," he said.
"The bottom line is that the LSD is the authority here, they're the ones that have to put together a task force and go into the fire station to find out if this is feasible, that's their responsibility and only they have the authority to do it.”
Former fire chief Glen Baker stood and asked for the floor.
During the meeting, former fire chief Glen Baker motioned for the communities to immediately begin compiling a list with a minimum of 15 names of interested, able volunteer firefighters.
"We need 20 dedicated volunteers to maintain a fire department, then we can contact the LSD and get the fire department going," he said.
A vote was taken, the motion passed with one resident opposed.
The committee hopes to take a list of potential volunteers to the LSD in hopes of legally gaining access to the community's fire station. Then the equipment and vehicles will be assessed and the feasibility of the project confirmed.
Geoff Adams, chairman of the Milton-George's Brook LSD, told The Packet last week the LSD met recently to discuss the fire service issue.
“This is a very sensitive Issue,” said Adams.
Although they were not ready to make any official statements, the LSD said they are working on the situation and are in negotiations with Clarenville concerning the fire protection services.
Adams also said the LSD is already in possession of a list of volunteer firefighters within the Milton-George's Brook district.
The concerned citizen’s committee met with the LDS on Monday April 9. The two committees have begun working together to find the best solution to the lack of fire services in their communities.
Vice-chair Manuel Ellis was at the meeting with the LSD. He said the two committees are working together now and hopes to see quick progress.
“We’re in a better position now, we can get the ball rolling
Meanwhile, the Milton-George's Brook citizen’s committee will be hosting a series of public meetings to discuss the details of reinstating the local fire department and to recruit volunteers.
The first meeting will be held at the Milton-George's Brook fire station on Thursday April 12, from 8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., followed by meetings on the 15th, 18th, 21st, 24th, 27th at the same times.
A final meeting is set for 5 p.m. on April 30.
All concerned community members and interested volunteers are encouraged to attend.