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Image: Rexton Volunteer Fire Department Facebook page

UPD: Rexton volunteer firefighters threaten to walk if conditions aren’t met

By Tara Clow Mar 21, 2024 | 3:46 PM

The Rexton Volunteer Fire Department says it is seeking respect from the Five Rivers village council and will walk away from their roles at 7 p.m. Thursday if they don’t get it.

Two volunteer fire departments currently serve the Five Rivers area: the Rexton Fire Department Beersville/Harcourt Fire Rescue.

Acting Fire Chief Warren Goodwin says they were given a layout of the budget for the Rexton department in November.

“We were told by the CAO at the time, in a meeting with the fire chief, deputy chief and myself, that we would be given a draft of the budget, but before it was presented to council, we would have a final chance to see what both sides were and make sure that both parties were happy before presenting to council to be approved,” Goodwin says.

But he claims in the first week of January, they were given a copy of the finalized budget and it was $63,750 less than the Beersville/Harcourt department was receiving, which came as a total shock.

They requested a meeting via email to sit down with the mayor and council to ask why there was such a big difference.

The following day, Goodwin says they received a two-part response. The first said they didn’t want to talk about it, and the second said that Fire Chief Brent Goodwin must immediately cease all firefighting duties.

“We took that as greatly disrespectful because it was sent as a very general email stating our fire chief had been stripped of his duties,” he said.

Goodwin says it progressed from there, with numerous correspondence back and forth between himself and the new CAO, who assumed the role in October.

“We’ve tried reaching out to the council members. We’ve tried sending emails to all six individual council members, but Council was told by the Mayor not to have any correspondence with us,” Goodwin says.

The Rexton Fire Department has been around since the 1930s. Goodwin says it has never gotten to the point where they have ever threatened to walk off the job before.

“We’ve always found a way around it, but we have some major, major issues going on here. We feel disrespected. We don’t feel appreciated, and I would just like to sit down and have a meeting so we can express our concerns. Any other past mayors, council, and CAOs would have gladly said ‘let’s book a meeting immediately.'”

Goodwin is also concerned for the safety of the community if they walk off the job.

“Do I feel comfortable with Five Rivers having adequate fire coverage from outlying fire departments in Rexton fire department’s absence? My answer to that is no,” he says.

“Just the sheer distance that the Beersville/Harcourt department would have to travel in order to respond to a call in Rexton’s area. Unfortunately, it’s sad to say, but by the time they were able to respond to this area, it very well could be too late for someone.”

He wishes the mayor and city council would see how grave the situation is.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Five Rivers isn’t commenting directly in response to the allegations. Instead, Tina Beers has posted a response on the community’s social media page.

She says the village has taken proactive steps to ensure continuous coverage from neighbouring fire departments.

Beers says they’re taking all necessary steps to address the allegations, adding they’re concerning but completely unfounded.

She feels they’re taking these matters very seriously, and any claims of misconduct are thoroughly investigated.

Beers also reassured the public that proactive steps have been taken to ensure continuous coverage from neighbouring fire departments.