Spaniard’s Bay symptomatic of much bigger problem

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The problems facing Spaniard’s Bay aren’t limited to just one town, and are only one example of an epidemic across communities and volunteer fire departments throughout the province.

For years, the volunteer fire department has been a “boys’ club” in nearly all the rural outport communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. The men of the community signed up, under the guise of protecting and serving the residents of the community, but instead it became a glorified headquarters and cesspool for vulgar, chauvinistic undertones that are obviously still evident.

Throughout the province, the local fire hall, in many cases, also serves as the gathering ground for most of the community’s socialites: doubling as the local pub, since the liquor licence is on full display and masked by the title of a “fundraiser”; dartboards are in full force and getting pinned with action through the shouts, cheers, swears, insults and drunken stupors of the local party boys, and perhaps seeing as much action as a miniature Vegas casino with the Texas Hold ’Em game happening in the corner where someone just won half of the EI cheque from a guy up the road, meaning his family would be a little more hungry this week.

This environment, evident likely not only in Spaniard’s Bay, but in fire brigades and communities throughout this great province, has gone on too long. It’s encouraged an attitude of chauvinistic male culture, and unfortunately isn’t a fantasy thought up by stereotypical meanderings, but rather proven to be reality because one woman had the strength and courage to speak up and say “no more.”

How many fire departments throughout this province are in similar cultural crisis, and don’t even realize it? How many are receiving provincial and municipal government funding for equipment and supplies while not bearing the capacity or capability to even respond to an emergency should one arise?

Only in Newfoundland and Labrador would we allow our rescue headquarters to be a bar, and have all of our rescue workers at a weekly “meeting” be half in the bag and incapable of dousing a candle with a garden hose, let alone saving a family from a burning house fire.

It’s time the government starts regulating and keeping up on the status and conditions of our local fire departments. They’re vital and crucial to our communities and should be treated as such. Brave men and women shouldn’t be subjected to situations that make them uncomfortable. They’re there to save lives, not have a party.

Rudy Norman


Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Michelle
    February 02, 2016 - 17:40

    It baffles me just how far a writer will go to make a column for a newspaper and even baffles me more how a newspaper will print such trash to gain more readingers. All volunteer fire fighters, BOTH male and female deserve MUCH more respect than this for the unselfish things they do for the people of their communities. I am sure that even Mr Norman himself would be thankful for them if he ever had to call on them.....even if a part of their money to support the dept is raised from selling alcohol at certain functions. (Just because there's alcohol in a place it doesn't make every one drunks, just like, if there's Bibles in a home it doesn't make everyone a Christian!) Without the fundraisers (whatever they are!) the volunteer fire depts across NL would not exist. May be Mr Norman should go and volunteer his time with his local fire dept to see exactly how things are run first hand, instead of degrading them as he did in his article.

  • Louise Drover
    February 02, 2016 - 14:16

    Well just let me start by saying first of all I am outraged that a newspaper would allow this CRAP about fire fighters to be published being as it is definitely an article which had has very little research done on the subject at hand. First let me say Mr. Rudy Norman that I AM a female firefighter and have been for nearly 5 years. Not only am I FULLY accepted by my dept by both men and women, I am also Executive President of that dept. Might I add I was nominated for the position by a male firefighter and that nomination seconded by a male fire fighter. Now I don't know how long you have been a fire fighter or where you attend meetings and training, but our dept neither haves nor serves alcohol at meetings nor training. We have several Christian members who do not even consume alcohol. We take our volunteering very seriously, and we are certainly not in the corner spending an EI check at Texas Hold'em, we have more important issues to discuss. Where are you when a fire call comes in, are you on the front line or do you stand on the sidewalk and watch while the brave men and women fight to save someones home, their pet, their life. I Have visited many fire dept on this peninsula and attending training in other towns ALL VOLUNTEER by the way, and have never witnessed the kind of behaviour you mention. People like you are the reason it is so hard to find volunteers to give time for this kind of thing. Without volunteers local fire dept cannot work. The Newfoundland and Labrador government does maintain and keep track of volunteer hours and training and meetings. They encourage training and continued education for fire depts, that is why I took a class and now am a certified trainer by Fire and Emergency services Nfld to help continue the education and training of fellow fire fighters. I don't have the time nor the patience to be dealing with this kind of negative remarks and plain ignorance. If you are to write further articles please ensure you have all your information is correct and please refrain from bringing folks and depts that you know nothing about into conversation that you have inadequate information about.

  • Carol
    February 02, 2016 - 10:29

    Seriously, got nothing else to say. For Gods sake , you need to find more stories to write about . Having a few beer and a few laughs is called having fun around the bay. And if any woman that goes to those functions can't handle it , stay home. You have no idea what volunteer firemen do for their communities and if they have gettogethers for themselves, more power to them. We know where they are if we need them . This story is sickening.

    • amanda jane
      February 02, 2016 - 18:01

      what if this was your daugther

  • Gord
    February 01, 2016 - 21:03

    Someone has touched a nerve here. Very defensive people commenting and obviously defending their volunteers, rightly so but remember you speak for your community but not for all. There may be issues somewhere in this large province and we have not heard from them all nor would I expect to. Just be careful when you embrace everyone in your protective rant as there may be an unreported story out there somewhere.

    • Slumberjack
      February 02, 2016 - 14:01

      One almost has to suspect that what people are trying to suggest in saying that harassment does not occur in 'their' workplace, is that harassment is unlikely to be going on anywhere.

  • Craig
    February 01, 2016 - 20:36

    Most fire departments are volunteer and they do have bars in them because that how they help raise money through wedding dances, dart tourments and other things. This is a big part off were they get the funds to buy the equipment they need to safe life's like the person that wrote this article. So unless your going to put your pen or pencil down and get involved with your fire department and go in to a burning house to safe someone you have no right to down what you do not know.

  • Amanda
    February 01, 2016 - 18:52

    You uneducated snob. Let me know how you feel about the outport fire departments when they need to come save your ass some day while their family sits by the window Wondering if they will be safe or not... But by all means.. Be an idiot.. Maybe they'll be too drunk to answer your call.

  • Hornet
    January 29, 2016 - 12:32

    I am appalled by this story! I am a volunteer firefighter in a community on the island of NL. Do not group or stereo type ALL fire departments in NL. Our department has highly trained, educated and very dedicated "firefighters" who answer the call of someone in need. We don't meet in a "bar" we are NEVER "intoxicated" while responding or at one of our two training nights per week. Like many volunteer groups, we struggle to get and keep volunteers but we treat EVERYONE with respect and professionalism and in return firefighters are proud to be members. We appreciate government funding for trucks and equipment used to provide an essential service (usually strangers to us) on our highways and in our communities. It is unfortunate that "some" fire departments in "some" parts of this county are experiencing some negetive issues. The fire service is no different from other work places that have had to learn a lesson or two in repectful work place practices.

  • Anonymous
    January 29, 2016 - 12:07

    These half in the bag firemen have a better chance of saving people than you have at saving yourself, Rudy. It's a very unfair and judgement article you've written about these men who would work their ass off to save anyone, regardless of situation, when called. Perhaps your very biased Christian views are skewing this article towards hate and judgement of people who drink. Considering these firemen are volunteer and off-duty, having a few drinks together as a group is a form of developing a relationship as a team. Lighten up, pal. You're gonna make a few enemy's in Burlington writing these thing.

  • Max Brody
    January 29, 2016 - 11:07

    I am actually insulted by the comments made by the writer of this letter. First of all come from a family of firefighters including my brothers, my father and even my mother. I can say that your comments are so far off base that that I can't even summon the words required to portray my disgust. For over 30 years my parents have served my community. They raised funds however they could because the town had no money to provide to the department for training and equipment. I would like to hear about the incidents where firefighters attended drunk. Unlikely that I would hear about them because it probably didn't happen. is it illegal to have a dart board in the fire hall. By no means am I defending the actions the actions of a few In Spainards Bay because I was not there and I don't know the facts. I'll close by saying don't criticize a volunteer unless you are will to take their place.

    January 28, 2016 - 23:59

    Ms Seymour was elected twice to council, the last being a bye election in 2015. She narrowly lost the mayoral race in the last full election to a Wayne Smith who was a town manager for over 25 years. Mr Smith resigned last year due to medical reasons creating a disturbing chain of events where Deputy Mayor Paul Brazil refused to accept the position of Mayor. Rather then have a Mayor bye election the 6 Town Councillors had an internal vote and elected Tony Menchions as mayor. This was not democracy by the people of Spaniard's Bay and shows the flaws in the Municipality Act that allow this kind of vote to happen. Anyway a bye election to replace the Councillor position held by Mr. Menchions was held, that was easily won by Ms Seymour. Despite all the hatred and demonizing of her by the resigned fire fighters/their families, I can assure you she is well respected by 90% of voters in the town. Spaniard's Bay has a lot of very well educated people who disagree with sexual harassment and gender bias and who are totally against the the leaders of the Fire Dept such as Chief Hiscock and Captain Snow in leading most of the firemen to mass resignations, leaving a town at risk of serious danger and harm. The fact Ms Seymour is the victim of sexual harassment. personal harassment, workplace inequality and gender bias trumps everything. She will get re-elected and we need more ambitious outspoken women like her on council and in all fire depts across Canada.

  • dissapointed
    January 28, 2016 - 22:10

    your article is so far on the wrong side of factual I am amazed it was printed, but then again it's an opinion piece. I guess that's the only thing you have to contribute is opinion. As a long time firefighter I insulted that you would spread these kind of lies and hate, many depts are struggling to gain new members and stay open, public opinion is one thing but at the end of the day when the phone rings it's me who deals with the emergency while you sit there and pontificate.

  • Darrell Somerton
    January 28, 2016 - 21:46

    I would like to start by saying I'm not a firemen but I know a lot of them. I don't know the person who took time out of there day to write this story but I must say whoever you are you must have a lot of time on your hand's to sit and write such Bologna. Every town's fire department is not the same as the next. The people in small town's that does this volunteering thing must love there town's or they wouldn't be doing it. As for drunk firemen putting out fires or going to car accident's I don't think for one second this happen's. Now for fire department's having Dart board's on the wall big deal if they have a game while there at the department not like there getting paid and not doing there job. now to the person who sat and wrote this grow up get a clue and go to work if you have to much time on your hand's

  • concerned on the side of the road!
    January 28, 2016 - 20:47

    Obviously this lady have never required the services of a volunteer fire department! She has never had to be wakened by a beeper, to dress quickly and head out on a call, not knowing what was to be faced, and could face the ultimate sacrifice. Ms. Norman, you only show how very ignorant you are of a volunteer fire department and in Newfoundland in general. I think volunteer fire fighters have been nastily raked over the coals and its time for those of us who rely upon their volunteerism to thank them for giving up their time to look after those of us in our communities. If you are a fire fighter reading this, or the family of a volunteer fire fighter, there are many, many of us in Newfoundland and Labrador who salute your brave and caring natures, thank you and be proud of what you do for us!

  • Harold
    January 28, 2016 - 19:28

    I think this person must be talking about their own town. I have been a member of our local volunteer fire department for the past 19 year, And I have visited a lot of good fire departments in our wonderful province. I can only speak as one firefighter, but I can tell you that I am a part of one of the best organizations, and fire departments I have ever had to be a part of. Also, when it comes to training, volunteers can only take part when they are not working, or have prior family commitments. As for myself I have had a great deal of training from our Fire commissioners Office , including my level 2. And has for you Rudy, you should be ashamed of the hurtful, and disrespecting comments that you have made to hundreds of volunteers that are on call 24/7. I hope that you don't ever need the response from your local fire department. I think you should walk in a volunteer Fire Fighters shoes before making a comment as disrespectful as this. you ungrateful person.

  • Confused
    January 28, 2016 - 18:33

    You are totally missing the point of the problem here. My thought on this article are simply "Big deal; so what!". I live in one of these small communities and I don't care as long as these volunteer firefighters are responding to our calls... Which they ARE! Why are we penalizing them for being 'social' outside of all the volunteer work they do? This has absolutely NOTHING to do with the ongoing situation in Spaniard's Bay!

  • Rick Kennedy Deputy Fire Chief Burlington Volunteer Fire Dept
    January 28, 2016 - 16:16

    Rudy .. I am a a loss about the wicked things you have said about our fire dept and the other fire depts . Every member here has given their free time from their family for training to protect our towns. We pride our selfs as beening a respectable fire dept that has cleaned house with the nonsense that you have mentioned. Please the next you feel that there a problems with our fire dept please feel free to talk to me or any other member. We are your neighbours that only want that protect our small community the best we can. Our fund raising is so we don't have to be funded by your tax dollars.

  • Shawn
    January 27, 2016 - 23:48

    I see the town sceptic in Burlington has expanded his territory! I didn't realize that the view from your window included other towns volunteer fire departments. Unless you had someone pick you and your recliner up, pack up the pop and Cheetos and drive you from town to town. Yes I too have volunteered as a firefighter and although there may be a stigma attached to these vital organizations, you simply can not judge if you don't make the effort to even go to court! My advise is for you to become a member, do the training, give up your weekend because a lot of members are out of town, and get called out in the early morning hours with your family of members. Before belittling the very people that you will someday call, try it and make a REAL DIFFERENCE.

  • Kris
    January 27, 2016 - 21:25

    Hahahahaha this is the worst, and least educated piece of writing that I have ever seen. Rudy Norman, do some research. Your opinion is so far off all I can do is pity you. I guess the telegram is hard up for content.

  • Unbelievable
    January 27, 2016 - 20:46

    That's the way to further an agenda...belittle and degrade and embarrass your fellow workers, their families, your council colleagues, and the whole community at large in front of the media, tv cameras, interviews, the province and the nation. What Seymour said may be forgotten, but what may never be forgotten is how she made them feel. How she may have felt was many times multiplied on them, and was a hell of a way to get her own way. Now she got it. Good luck with that. Is there anything left for her to produce a media circus about? Time will tell. Methinks that behaviour will continue...about something or other.

  • Ken
    January 27, 2016 - 19:59

    Whoever wrote this should be ashamed of themselves far as im concerned. And buddy thats telling this garbage should come to our fire dept and others before he run's his mouth off. What an idiot

  • Nancy
    January 27, 2016 - 19:50

    I think the author of this story needs to get his facts in order regarding volunteer fire departments in general! While some things may be true for some or a minimal number of departments, we have most rural departments who gave dedicated volunteers who put in many hours weekly to train and upgrade themselves on how to best assist and help people like Mr Norman when the need arises!

  • Bob's your uncle
    January 27, 2016 - 19:06

    How many out there every received help from a drunk firefighter? I am safe to say none. Whenever a firefighter is at a call he's sober. Like any person I am sure they have a drink or two but does that make him a bad person, as for darts because some towns or communities won't put taxpayers dollars towards their fire dept., these volunteers will use darts as a fund raiser. If those volunteer fire dept. were funded the way they should than the firefighters wouldn't be spending all their time fundraising, and therefore spend more time training. The type of fire dept you have in your community depends upon how your community fund them. I am sure mr Norman wouldn't turn down help from the dart playing firefighter if his life was in danger or one of his loved ones was trapped in a vehicle.

  • Take note 'the gram'
    January 27, 2016 - 15:25

    real calvin says he's got a job(earlier posts) but it can't be too productive as he is constantly posing comments during working hours. But, since he has issues with the content of 'the gram' publications, mostly letters,and seemingly he would rather troll the online 'gram' than put in time in his regular job, , perhaps he might consider being an online censor. Then there would appear in 'the gram' only topics that calvin would be interested in.

  • been there
    January 27, 2016 - 13:44

    Good article. I'm sure readers know that not all volunteers/fire depts. are genetic throwbacks but the writer makes a valid point. I read the piece by a supporter of those that resigned in S/Bay, he was making a point about why a female firefighter couldn't get funding for training & advocating for training seemed to really irritate others,( apparently advocating for yourself is wrong out there). The dept. only gets a small grant you see & they needed money for things like, get this, send someone to the fireman's convention!!! It's so much more important than well trained firefighters, especially female ones, maybe. We're giving money to these folks from our tax pool. Oh dear! If we think this problem is confined to Spaniard's Bay, you better think again. Add our provincial government to that problem list, it seems to start at the top & runs downhill from there. You can have all the policies you want but they aren't worth the paper they're written on if policy is ignored.

    • Louise
      February 02, 2016 - 21:29

      As stated in my previous response I am a female fire fighter and as for us not being funded for training that is pure bullshit. Funds are provided for us all to travel and do training. I am so sick of people talk out of the left side of their mouth on issues they know nothing about. Do I agree with anyone male or female being belittled or harassed, no I do not. But how do we pass judgement on issues that do not directly involve us, that we are not part of, that we do not have all the information on. Just a note our fire dept currently has 20 active members of which 6 are female.

  • The real Calvin
    January 27, 2016 - 09:44

    There goes the Gram again, posting letters to the editor simply to cause an online argument. I completely side with Mrs. Seymour in the Spaniards Bay issue, I don't care how many sides there are to the story. But this is unfounded slander, submitted not by a feminist, but by someone who misunderstands the idea of gender equality just as much as some of the outcast firefighters. One fire department is bad so they all are because they are full of men? No my dear.

    • publish long & loud
      January 27, 2016 - 15:54

      Settle down Calvin, you don't have to worry, rest assured this will fall by the wayside to rear it's ugly head again & get everyone on the go later at a more fitting time . The Telegram has no business keeping this non-issue in the public eye. who do they think they are to to try & bring about change for over half of our population & standing up for people when no one else will. the nerve of 'em. Gary boy the girls should really stick to making cupcakes & dressing up pretty just for guys that like it that way. we all know that men should get all the glory, the better pay, the promotions. women should shut up & be thankful they get the scraps. right you are!

  • Gary
    January 27, 2016 - 08:44

    I take strong exception to this story and am of the allegations of the author are unfounded as well as ludicrous. I proudly served in the Goulds Volunteer Fire Department for a number of years and neither I nor any member of that department have any regrets in the manner in which it was managed. During the period of time I was there there was not one female firefighter in the province, however, in the Goulds the success of the fire department was as much due to the dedication and hard work of the Ladies Auxiliary as it was the firefighters. The social events were well managed and included the family unit, fronm children to grandparents. Sure the fire hall was a gathering place and righty so, it was an unpaid job and members took their role as serious as any professional firefighter. I can assure you intoxication was not tolerated, not even on the weekly meeting night. If there was an arranged social event, Christmas, etc., an assignment of members were deligated to be on duty, and I never once saw this policy violated by drinking or elsewise. The fire department and I include the women were not only successful amoung themselves but were also a large part of the community and helped out in many areas beyond the role of a fire department. Our province has seen the death and and injuries to our firefighters, injuries were some became incapable of living a normal life. None of these came out of a "bar" and none of these left the fire station drunk. The sacrifice of the wives, husbands,children and parents are all part of their loved one joining a fire department to work for no pay other than a sense of duty, and maybe some enjoyment. it is sad that the writer here has a narrow minded opinion and unable, or doesn't want to see the big picture. If the writer's community has problems , deal with it as they have in Spainaird's Bay,but refrain from a sterotype cynical attitude toward a topic you have no idea of what you are talking about.

    • Paul
      January 27, 2016 - 09:58

      Well said Gary.

    • Jimmy
      January 27, 2016 - 10:18

      The Goulds dept has volunteers???? They've been part of St. John's for 20 yrs or so. Why is Goulds putting up with volunteers when SJ has a paid (and quite well) dept staffed 24/7. Sure Doc is trying tom buy land in DannyLand for a new fire hall and we have volunteers in SJ or Goulds already...............something ain't right

    • Volunteer
      January 27, 2016 - 20:51

      Thank you for this comment.. I am also a volunteer within our province... A female firefighter! Our dept prides itself in the extra activities we involve ourselves in. From the Santa Claus parades, lunches with the Easter bunny, training with Sea Cadets or badges with Brownies. Boot drives to raise funds for our own expenses outside of out funding, as well as for the Janeway and TCP telethons. We also attend many activities inside the local schools or community seniors homes. We attend weekly training nights and volunteer our weekends to extra training courses or sometime weeks off work to attend the annual Fire Training School or Fire Convention. Of course we have our weekends of "family" barbecues, Christmas gatherings and our annual Christmas ball, but why not? These are events that bring our dept and it's members closer together. We need to have a different level of respect and trust in one another than those in lost jobs... These are the people who we trust to have our backs at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning when the pager sounds!

  • roy206
    January 27, 2016 - 07:07

    25 % of women and 85% of men have watched or do watch porn....This means at least 2/3 of the adult population of SB either watch or have watched porn.....The Firefighters do NOT have sensitivity issue, nor do they need to be berated by the public. These are solid volunteers, almost impossible to replace , being dragged thru the mud over a " Sense of Humor Issue" that took a year and a half to sink in...

    • Wallace
      January 27, 2016 - 10:14

      go way bye, most people drink alcohol, however it isn't acceptable to drink at work, or at a training session paid for by the govt of NL & Lab. I see the problem is deep rooted.

    • Joan Noble
      February 03, 2016 - 14:09

      This whole thread is so sad . I may or may not agree with someone's opinions on any issue but that is no excuse to slander the person themselves. Words like " idiot , lazy , references to his religious life , his work ethic , his eating habits " etc. are not acceptable in my world. People , it's okay to disagree and some of you did in a very tasteful way but to attack in a rude manner shows the attitudes you will pass on to those around you. We can state our opinions in a manly or womanly courteous way.