SPRUCEDALE – Recruitment is on for a fire chief for the Township of McMurrich/Monteith.
According to reeve Glynn Robinson, council has been in discussions with volunteer chief Ken Nixon, who was seeking a more full-time role on the department.
The most recent correspondence was an offer letter with a timeline.
“We said if we hadn’t heard from him by a certain time we would assume he didn’t accept the offer,” said Robinson.
The deal with Nixon, who has been a volunteer with the department for about 25 years, several of those years as chief, did not materialize.
Robinson says Nixon was looking for more commitment than the township was prepared to give.
Robinson admitted council could have been more proactive in their negotiations, and says they had been dragging their feet.
However, now the recruitment for a paid, part-time chief is on.
According to Robinson, they have been interviewing for the position and have narrowed it down to three applicants. He says a decision should be made within the next few weeks.
In the interim, deputy chief Jim Kiers has stepped into the role of acting chief.
Robinson says recruitment for more volunteer firefighters, which is a constant battle for the small municipality, will be a challenge to be faced by the next chief.
Robinson says the number of volunteers varies between 20 to 30.
“We have that many volunteers but we have very few responders,” he said. “We get quite a large turnover.”
He says the chief would be responsible for two fire halls, the one in Sprucedale as well as another in Bear Lake.
“They are talking about purchasing another pumper for (Bear Lake). Apparently the one they have isn’t in that good shape,” he said. “But there are very few responders for Bear Lake.”
Robinson says he doesn’t know what the solution is for the lack of responders because many of the people who live down that section of Highway 518 are retired and there are few young people who are able to volunteer.
He says the new chief would also have to be able to keep the volunteers up to date with training and keep on top of the paperwork necessary for the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office.