After outcry, municipality backtracks on decision to close rural N.S. fire department

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WATCH: The decision to close a fire department in rural Nova Scotia has been paused after public and firefighter outcry. The Greenwich Fire Department was slated to shutter April 1. But now, Kings County’s mayor is apologizing for not consulting the community and the fire department. Callum Smith reports – Mar 11, 2022

The Municipality of the County of Kings has backtracked on its decision to close down the Greenwich Fire Department following outcry from both the volunteers who work at the department and the public who is served by it.

In a release Thursday evening, the municipality said councillors met in a special session that day and voted in favour of a motion to pause the proposed merger of the Greenwich and Wolfville fire districts, which was to take place on April 1.

“Mayor Peter Muttart said municipal council has heard from the public and, as a result, resolved to rescind its decision,” the release said.

Read more: N.S. fire chief feels ‘betrayed’ after decision to close rural volunteer department

The controversial decision to close down the fire department and transfer its services to the department in Wolfville was made during an in-camera session of council for the Municipality of the County of Kings on Feb. 22.

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The council, along with that of the Town of Wolfville, had jointly formalized an agreement with the Greenwich Fire Commission — which is separate from the department — to merge the two districts following a study of fire services in the region that looked at potential overlaps and room for improvements.

However, the choice has drawn criticism from the department’s fire chief, who said the department participated in the study but was not made aware of its findings until the decision was already made.

He was also critical of the decision being made behind closed doors, without consultation from the public or the department.

The Greenwich Fire Department has been in service since the 1930s. Greenwich Fire Department/Facebook

The department had recently hired a lawyer and filed an application for a judicial review of the decision with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

After the department went public with their grievances about the decision, the municipality has held two sessions where the public could weigh in, and a dominant theme was that the fire station should remain open until a new replacement station has been constructed and operational.

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The release said the municipality will “restart the process,” and future decisions will require the consent of the Greenwich Fire Commission, the Town of Wolfville and other parties to its fire services agreement.

In a statement, Greenwich Fire Chief Jason Ripley said the members of the fire department were “pleased with the decision,” but were disappointed that the department wasn’t mentioned as a stakeholder as part of the motion.

Read more: N.S. fire department seeks judicial review of ‘unfair’ decision to shut it down

“We believe any future discussion about a new fire station for both districts needs to include both fire departments to ensure the talents of the volunteers with both stations can be harnessed to provide the best possible service to the area,” Ripley said.

“We look forward to working with all parties going forward to find common ground and solutions.”

The statement also said that several councillors have alleged they have received threats of violence over the last two weeks, and  the department was unaware of such threats.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms any threats of violence toward any person. No elected official should ever be the victim of threats or acts of violence, that behaviour is simply unacceptable,” Ripley said in the statement. “If the allegations are true, we hope those responsible will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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The statement said the fire department will consult with its solicitor “to determine the appropriate next steps relating to the legal action filed with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.”

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