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Manitouwadge firefighters return to duty

All 21 volunteer firefighters are back on call pending the outcome of talks on Wednesday
Manitouwadge Town Hall
The municipal offices in Manitouwadge, Ont. (TBNewswatch file)

MANITOUWADGE, Ont. — There's a break in the impasse between members of the volunteer fire department in Manitouwadge and the township administration.

The firefighters agreed to return to duty as of 5:00 pm Tuesday, after council offered to meet to hear their concerns directly.

The meeting will take place Wednesday evening, and will include Manitouwadge Mayor John MacEachern, who was recently away from the community.

Confirmation of the meeting came first from Acting Mayor Jim Moffat, who expressed confidence that a settlement can be reached.

That was followed by an announcement from Deputy Fire Chief Denis Narbonne that all 21 firefighters would end their self-imposed leave of absence pending the outcome of the talks.

Narbonne said the decision was made "for the safety of the community" of about 2,000. 

The firefighters' protest began Monday.

It was over what Narbonne has described as concerns about staffing levels and poor communications with the township.

The dispute has created a lot of anxiety among Manitouwadge residents, as it left the community completely dependant on fire and rescue services from Marathon, an hour away.

Manitouwadge's fire service is currently overseen by the chief of the Marathon fire department in an acting capacity while the search for a new full-time chief continues.

Narbonne has said the firefighters have no issues with Marathon Fire Chief Earl Grigg or with the Marathon fire service.

But Moffat indicated in an interview that there will be an update at Wednesday's meeting concerning replacing Manitouwadge's retired chief.

He said the township had had multiple discussions over the previous 24 hours with Emergency Management Ontario and the Office of the Fire Marshal which have provided guidance and support. 

The mutual aid agreement with Marathon, Moffat said, is still in place, adding that Manitouwadge is "thankful to them who have been so generous with their patience, time and support."


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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