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UPDATED: Firefighters in Manitouwadge all took a leave of absence

Deputy Fire Chief Denis Narbonne says members have concerns about staffing.
Manitouwadge Town Hall

MANITOUWADGE, Ont. — The town of Manitouwadge was left Monday to rely on Marathon for fire protection after all 21 members of the volunteer fire department took a leave of absence.

Town officials said they were calling a meeting to discuss the members' concerns. 

Manitouwadge residents learned in a Facebook message that firefighters were taking leave because of safety concerns, and that residents should take extra precautions until the problems are resolved.

"We've told people to be vigilant, be cautious around fire, cooking, heating appliances. We're hoping to get this rectified in a decent amount of time," Deputy Fire Chief Denis Narbonne told TBNewswatch.

The fire department is currently overseen by Acting Chief Earl Grigg, who's also the chief of the fire rescue service in Marathon, about an hour away.

Marathon Mayor Rick Dumas says it's a temporary arrangement until Manitouwadge finds a permanent replacement for its fire chief who retired earlier this year.

Narbonne said there's been a breakdown in communications with the town administration regarding safety issues affecting both residents and firefighters during fire calls.

"Lack of communication, not having proper personnel available to be on call. We're in the middle of hiring a new fire chief here, and there's been very little communication between the CAO, council and the fire department," Narbonne said.

He cited a situation on the weekend when some firefighters had to cancel their plans on short notice to ensure there was adequate staffing to protect the community.

Narbonne said he hoped town council would move quickly to resolve the concerns.

The town posted a message on social media saying it would communicate with the public later on Monday about the outcome of a meeting with the firefighters "to better understand their concerns."

The message was signed by Grigg and CAO Florence MacLean.

They also advised residents to take extra precautions, including ensuring testing their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and planning and practising fire escape plans with their families.

Late Monday, Narbonne said that although the firefighters' concerns were "well-received" at a meeting with Grigg, those concerns require township council to act.

He said the firefighters have no issue with Grigg or with the Marathon fire department, but will stay off the job until they can meet with council.

"We're still on leave until they decide they want to communicate with us," Narbonne said.

Manitouwadge Mayor John MacEachern could not be reached Monday for comment. 

NOTE:  This story has been updated to include information provided by the firefighters following their meeting with the acting chief.

 



Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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