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Lewisporte withdraws from regional fire department initiative

A regional fire department would allow smaller stations to improve their training, claims Lewisporte fire Chief Rob Fudge.
Lewisporte fire Chief Rob Fudge. - Jordan Maloney

Town still supportive of regionalization

LEWISPORTE, N.L. – After a decision labeled as unfortunate by officials relating to the matter, the Town of Lewisporte withdrew from the proposed regional fire department.

“We regretfully and unfortunately after seriously considering this, lots of discussion on it, we had to make this decision,” said Coun. Kenneth Tucker.

Lewisporte Town Council passed a motion at their regular meeting on June 14 to withdraw from the prospective regional fire department. Over the past several months, a board of elected officials from participating communities was formed, as well as an executive committee consisting of fire chiefs representing their respective municipalities. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was drafted, and participating parties could not come to an agreement on several key issues.

“There was a difference of opinion on the structure of the officers for the regional fire department,” Tucker said. “That’s from the chief, to his deputy chief and down through.”

Loon Bay, Embree, Little Burnt Bay, Brown’s Arm, Campbellton, Comfort Cove and Lewisporte were all part of the effort to regionalize, though no agreement could be met that was satisfactory for all in regards to department structure and the length of term for officials.

“That was a really contentious issue,” Tucker said. “It got to the point where a name was chosen for the regional fire department, and that was an issue as well with the elected officials from other communities.”

The executive of fire chiefs chose the name for the department, which would have been called the Lewisporte Regional Fire Department, though Tucker said some members could not accept it. Tucker called Lewisporte the centerpiece of the regional department, which is why they felt the name should be chosen.

Tucker said at this time, with everything considered, council felt that the regional fire department couldn’t succeed.

“Therefore, we had a discussion and we came to the decision we did last evening to withdraw,” he said.

Tucker said under section 396 of the Municipalities Act, there was some potential occupational health and safety concerns and liabilities about sending their firefighters to outside communities.

“We had to take that into consideration,” he said.

Under mutual aid agreements, Tucker added Lewisporte Fire Rescue would have to fall under the command of the chief they were helping when responding in other communities, regardless of the quality of their training or equipment.

After a discussion, council decided Lewisporte Fire Rescue would not provide services outside of Lewisporte, with the exception of any current agreements with Stanhope and certain cottage areas.

“There were concerns of liability issues there we had to consider,” he said. “That’s why we basically came to the decision we did.”

Tucker added that Lewisporte fully supports the idea of regionalization, but because of circumstances at this time they couldn’t move forward.

Lewisporte Mayor Betty Clarke said her community has one of the most advanced volunteer fire departments on the island. She sent a letter to surrounding communities stating Lewisporte Fire Rescue would no longer be fighting fires outside of their municipal boundaries effective Friday, June 15.

“This is very unfortunate,” she said. “When you’ve got communities outside that haven’t got a full-fledged fire department.”

Clarke thinks the other communities wanted more representation among the board and executive, and didn’t want Lewisporte to have as much.

“I was really disappointed that they all couldn’t agree on some of the issues there,” she said.

Clarke said Lewisporte would welcome back the communities for discussion.

“They’ve got to realize that Lewisporte’s the hub,” she said. “And Lewisporte has the biggest fire department. We’re willing to go to any fire for the whole area, the firemen of Lewisporte went to all areas when need be. We will certainly work with them if they want to come back to the table with a different frame of mind.”

Editor's note: 

In an effort to clear up any confusion, Coun. Kenneth Tucker said responses involing motor vehicle accidents, search and rescue, and ice rescue remain unchanged.

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