Volunteer fire fighters suspend service over dispute

By Dryden Observer Staff

What seems to have begun with a tightening of city regulations on a club room for volunteer firefighters has escalated into a revolt and an exchange of press releases high in emotion and short on details.

The Dryden Fire Fighters Association (DFFA) took bold action late last week announcing that they have suspended service to the volunteer-dependent Dryden Fire/Rescue Service, declaring the association has ‘lost all confidence in the Dryden Fire Service Fire Chief Ryan Murrell’.

The DFFA said the action comes as a response to what they believe to be the wrongful dismissal of three volunteer firefighters, among them a captain with 18 years of service — followed by two weeks of silence from the city in which time the association says they repeatedly requested an explanation.

A statement from the city released on Friday said that while they are not at liberty to publicly discuss the confidential matter of the dismissed volunteer fire fighters, they are committed to resolving outstanding issues with the DFFA. In the meantime, volunteers fire fighters from Hall 2 (Barclay) are covering fire calls with mutual aid from Oxdrift and Wabigoon Fire Halls.

“Whatever disagreements we might have, everyone would agree that community safety has to come first while we navigate a human resources matter,” said Deputy Mayor Nick Beyak. “The City has met with volunteer firefighters and remains committed to continuing discussions, while maintaining public safety. We (The City of Dryden) value their service,” said Deputy Mayor Nick Beyak. “I believe the firefighters’ concerns can be resolved through further discussions. We encourage our dedicated volunteer firefighters to remain ready to protect our community as we work through these matters.”

A follow-up release from DFFA fired back, reiterating that no discussions or communication has taken place contrary to the city’s claims.

“We are not unionized and feel very much taken advantage of,” said the DFFA. “The City holds us to their standards but cannot even tell us when we are City employees and when we are just Joe average citizens.”

On Jan. 15, Association President Chris Stoiber spoke as a delegation to Dryden City Council in a bid to lease or purchase the DFFA’s Association Room at Dryden’s Fire Hall 1 from the city.

The minutes of the Council Policy and Bylaw Review Committee meeting of Feb. 7 indicate that the DFFA had requested that the Association Room at Fire Hall 1 be made a facility eligible for Special Occasion Permits under the Municipal Alcohol Policy for events such as firefighter retirements. The request was denied by the Policy and Bylaw Review Committee.

“The wrongful dismissal was the tipping point for us,” said the DFFA. “Weeks after it happened, having no one to advocate for us, not even being aware that HR was even a resource we have access to, and trying to figure out how a mystical HR process does not involve paper or communication,  enough was enough.  As a volunteer this is not our primary job and no one wants to come to work in a toxic environment where this kind of stress is very much preventable.”

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