Sundre’s volunteer fire department is “fully operational” and ready to respond to emergencies in the southern Alberta community, despite rumours to the contrary that circulated on Monday evening.
Several community members sent emails to Global News on Monday and posted on social media, saying the Town of Sundre had fired its fire chief and locked the remaining firefighters out of the fire station, leaving the town without any means of fire response.
According to Mayor Terry Leslie, those were “malicious rumours” that are “categorically false.”
The former fire chief disagrees, saying his crew was locked out of the hall.
The fire department is going through a transition, Leslie explained, after the departure of Chief Marty Butts. Leslie wouldn’t speak to the circumstances around Butts’ departure, saying the town can’t comment on personnel matters.
Speaking with Global News, the mayor explained that as is the norm, when someone like a fire chief leaves a position, the code to the locks on the building was changed — but he said the department was never “locked out,” and that the deputy fire chief and any members who needed the code to the door had it.
“Town residents and businesses can rest assured that they will continue to be protected by dedicated men and women who faithfully serve our community,” Leslie said in a public statement posted on the town’s website Tuesday morning.
“Firefighters have been contacted and remain fully supported by the town and county councils. Mutual aid partners were contacted by the town yesterday and have confirmed that service to Sundre and district remains unchanged.”
Leslie also said he had not heard of any resignations of any firefighters.
Dozens of community members rallied outside Sundre town hall on Tuesday in support of the firefighters and former chief.
Former fire chief speaks
Butts said this has been building up over a couple of years, adding that disagreements left the town in jeopardy.
“I’m getting no answers, no support, very little support from the town side, and to do my job properly, that doesn’t work. We’ve got to work as a team,” he said.
Butts said the fire hall’s locks were changed and his town email account was disabled. He said he was let go because he was accused of being a bully, using his authority against people.
“I’ve been seeing a few things in the hall that I just can’t turn my back on anymore and I said if I’m going to be a chief anymore in the community and do a good job, I’ve got to law down the law,” he said.
Butts said he wasn’t getting the support from the town that he needed.
“I’m old school, maybe that gets me into trouble. All my guys know Marty’s mad because he just dropped the F-bomb. Well, I’m trying to get better at the way I come across, but sometimes you voice your opinion,” he said.
“In today’s day and age, you have to watch what you say, and I get that. But to blow this up to where it is now is ridiculous.”
‘End of an era’
The town will soon start recruiting for a new fire chief, Leslie said, and has brought in Behr Fire Services to help its firefighters through the transition.
“Marty’s departure marks the end of an era for the fire service,” Leslie said in the statement.
“The town is grateful for the service Mr. Butts has provided the community and wishes him the best in his future endeavours.”
Leslie said the town is seeking advice from its lawyer about what information it can release about Butts’ departure from the fire service.