News of a proposed fire hall closure within the MD of Willow Creek has sparked a fiery debate among Moon River residents.
The small hamlet’s current department is run by half a dozen volunteers, who along with residents, say they’re not prepared to let this service go.
“I have two legs, I can get out of here but there are at least six other people that live in this area that can’t,” said area resident John Seim.
The fire department is run by five volunteers and its chief, equipped with only an aging tanker truck.
“We’re just a small satellite department here but we still feel it’s a necessity in this end of the MD,” added fire chief Andy Berns.
While it’s not much, it was more than enough to extinguish a fire just last month, that had the potential to be much more devastating, had it not been for the Moon River fire department.
“A few weeks ago, a homeowner was burning some garage and the fire jumped out of the garbage barrel. Fortunately, our volunteer fire department was able to stop it before it got to a home, but in that home there’s a lady who’s disabled,” explained Seim. “I don’t know how she would’ve gotten out if the fire got to her house.”
Residents say they fear there’s a very real threat that saving grace, their fire hall, could be taken away. A proposal has recently been put forward by the MD of Willow Creek to shut down the department, sending the calls instead to Fort MacLeod.
“Timewise, for any other departments to get here is half hour so we figure we’re definitely an asset that way,” added Berns.
Word of the potential closure has spread as quickly as any southern Alberta wildfire, and while no decision has been made yet, residents say what they need right now is communication.
“We don’t know what the facts are. Maybe there is a perfectly justifiable reason for closing the fire department but we haven’t heard it yet,” said Seim.
Officials at the MD of Willow Creek were unable to comment on the proposed changes today, but said the decision will be before council within the next month.