The Municipality of Kings County, Nova Scotia, voted to close the Greenwich Volunteer Fire Department and turn over its assets to the nearby town of Wolfville Volunteer Service at a special council meeting this week.

Jason Ripley, the chief of the Greenwich Volunteer Fire Department, said he learned of the decision when the assistant general manager called him at 8:30 p.m. to say they were about to send out a press release announcing the closing.

“I was surprised. I was very shocked,” Ripley told CBC News on Wednesday.

The city council had been discussing the area’s firefighting needs for the past year or so, but hadn’t announced it would vote on closing the department on Tuesday and the topic was not on the agenda. council day.

Meeting minutes show it was a special meeting held by video and included Kings County City Council, Wolfville City Council and the Greenwich Fire Protection Commission .

The debate took place behind closed doors. Kings County Council voted 9 to 0 in favor of closing the department and carrying out an agreement with the town of Wolfville for it to provide fire services in the district of Greenwich.

“We feel quite betrayed”

Ripley said he asked the counselor. Jim Winsor and the general manager delayed sending out the press release so he could tell the 39 volunteer firefighters himself, but they refused to wait.

The leader emailed the news to his members at 9:30 p.m. He then posted a video on social media. The station is due to close in just five weeks, on April 1.

“It’s very disheartening. We feel quite betrayed by the way the process has gone,” he said. “Thirty-seven days is quite a short time to make a decision of this consequence and for them to have made the decision in one night is confusing.”

Winsor, the councilor for Greenwich and New Minas, said closing Greenwich would reduce layoffs because there are other fire stations in the area and save $130,137 a year.

“Wolfville and Greenwich Fire Stations have an imminent need for new fire stations. The estimated cost to replace the Wolfville Fire Station is $3.2 million and the estimated cost to replace the Greenwich Fire Station is of $2.5 million, for a combined total replacement cost of $5.7 million,” he said.

The closure of Greenwich means they will only have to build a new fire station. He said the board met behind closed doors because it included conversations about contracts.

Chief Jason Ripley has been a volunteer firefighter for 20 years. (Submitted by Greenwich Volunteer Fire Department)

Peter Muttart, the mayor of the municipality, said the process began when Greenwich raised concerns about its funding levels. The municipality hired Ontario-based Emergency Management & Training to assess the situation seven months ago.

The board received the report shortly before Tuesday’s meeting and voted to close the department the same day. Greenwich will rely on the Wolfville Volunteer Fire Department and the 11 other area fire departments for protection.

“Each Wolfville and Greenwich department is now at the stage where it needs major repairs and improvements in terms of physical assets. We have determined that Wolfville being a city-owned department would be a logical successor to any that and that department could provide the service,” he said.

Greenwich firefighters are often the first responders to traffic accidents and medical emergencies. (Submitted by Greenwich Volunteer Fire Department)

Muttart said the council plans to close the department on April 1 and give all assets to Wolfville, which will use them to pay for a new fire station in Wolfville.

“It would be the Wolfville Fire Department, but it would be a brand new facility. It would be the most modern facility at the time of construction,” he said.

The Greenwich Fire Commission owns the fire department’s assets, which Ripley says include four trucks and other tools worth millions of dollars. Volunteers raised between 33 and 50% of that money to buy them.

Members of the commission attended the council meeting. The elected commission represents the interests of Greenwich, but Ripley said two of the three commission members actually work for the Wolfville Volunteer Fire Department.

“We think there’s definitely a conflict of interest between these two people. Two of the three are on this fire department and stand to gain from this decision,” he said.

Winsor said only one of the members worked for Wolfville.

“They are all good people”

The mayor said he didn’t know if any of the Greenwich commission members worked for Wolfville, but he didn’t think it was a problem. “That would be like assuming they would be in conflict. I wouldn’t be prepared to make that kind of assumption. They’re all good people,” Muttart said.

Winsor also saw no conflict of interest.

Ripley also raised questions about why he only received a copy of the report on the day of the meeting and why he was not invited to the meeting. He said the council should also have consulted the public before making such an important decision.

The Wolfville Fire Department is about three miles from the Greenwich department, and Ripley said those extra minutes were essential.

“When talking about a fire, obviously it is an emergency situation where you need help as quickly as possible,” he said. “This could potentially put lives and property at risk.”

It could also increase insurance for homeowners who are now more than eight miles from a fire station.

This image from the report shows the area currently covered by the County of Greenwich. (The County Municipality of Kings)

Currently, a mutual aid request automatically calls other fire departments to structure fires in the 88 square kilometer Greenwich area, but Greenwich handles all non-fire related calls. The coverage area includes Greenwich and south to the Hants county border.

Ripley said her all-volunteer service answers about 100 calls a year in the district of 2,500 people. Over the past week, this has included a collision with a vehicle, a fire alarm at the local nursing home and 12 calls about flooding over a five-hour period during last Friday’s storm.

They are also first responders and are often the first on the scene when someone is having a heart attack or choking.

No places reserved for 39 volunteers

The Municipality of Kings County said the 39 volunteer firefighters did not have guaranteed positions at other stations, but Muttart said he hoped they would find new positions at other departments.

Todd Crowell, chief of the Wolfville Fire Department, said he learned of the change after the council meeting.

“The Fire Service study explains that the Wolfville Volunteer Fire Department is able to expand our service area to include the Greenwich Fire District, while ensuring that communities in all corners of the extended coverage area continue to receive uninterrupted services that meet or exceed national industry standards,” he said.

Ripley has been a volunteer firefighter for 20 years and works in finance at a local car dealership.

“We’ve been really lucky to have a young base of firefighters join us, especially over the past year,” he said.

“People who have a rank now, who have been firefighters for years and have worked their way up, are obviously going to lose their jobs. Those people are likely to be less motivated to join another service.”

The City Council voted to close the Greenwich Fire Department effective April 1, disbanding its team of 39 volunteers. The mayor says he hopes they will apply for positions in other departments. (Adrian Stuart Johnstone/Greenwich Volunteer Fire Department)

He wants the municipality to suspend the closure and talk to the public first. He said his department is open to a merger or other partnership if it improves fire safety.

“I’m also the Kings County Training Coordinator for the Basic Firefighter Program in Kings County, which is also something I guess I’ll be dropping as of April 1,” he said. he declared, noting that he will not have a fire. department from which to work.

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