Mount Stewart has called in help to put out any fires.
The rural municipality has contracted East River Fire Department to provide fire services for one month or as required until council has concluded its analysis of “go forward operations’’ for the Mount Stewart Fire Department (MSFD).
“This is being done to mitigate risk and liability to the municipality given the reduced number of trained fire fighters within Mount Stewart Fire Department, and to ensure the provision of fire services to our residents during the time that options for fire services in the community continue to be explored and finalized,’’ the municipality has posted on its website.
The statement adds that the municipality, CAO Christine Watts and council are working “very hard’’ to resolve uncertainty surrounding ongoing operations for MSFD.
“We are in regular contact with municipal affairs and most recently with the fire marshall to understand our requirements, risk position, and to most of all ensure our residents are safe,’’ says the statement.
The municipality plans to hold a public meeting by the end of the month to share information with residents and receive input. Following that, the municipality notes in the statement, a decision will be finalized on “go-forward fire services’’ for Mount Stewart.
A special council meeting was held March 28 to evaluate options for providing fire service to this community of roughly 220 residents located about 20 kilometres east of Charlottetown.
In March, P.E.I. Fire Marshall Dave Rossiter recommended council get its firefighter numbers up to what it had and get them trained or seek service from another provider.
The Mount Stewart Fire Department currently has seven members: acting Fire Chief Urban MacDonald; captain Joey Affleck; assistant captain Roger Doucette; training officer Ross Davies and fire fighters Ben Doucette, Kaeline Fisher and Mike MacDonald.
“I really don’t want to say anything right now,’’ Urban MacDonald told The Guardian.
Phone messages to Watts were not returned.
Concern over the MSFD’s ability to provide proper fire services has been brewing for a long time.
In December 2017, then Mount Stewart Coun. Frank Walker told The Guardian the fire department should be closed due to inadequacies. He noted an audit conducted by Rossiter highlighted concerns with equipment and training not being up to snuff.
The audit, completed in August 2017, found gear was “very old’’, including some with a manufacture date of 1991.
Still, Rossiter stated in his audit that Mount Stewart Fire Department “does measure up to most rural fire departments with some recommendations to be enacted to strengthen their administrative and risk management foundation.’’
The dispute over the community’s fire department resulted in council being dissolved in 2017. At that time, then-chairwoman Maxine Jay-Doucette and vice-chairwoman Julie MacKay both resigned to prevent the passing of a motion to close the Mount Stewart Fire Department.
Roy Main, a former chief administrative officer of Charlottetown, was appointed as a special commissioner to carry on the administration of Mount Stewart as the municipality went without a council until the November 2018 general municipal election.
Jay-Doucette was elected as mayor in that election, but she recently resigned her post – again over the MSFD dispute.
Coun. Patricia Doucette also stepped down over the latest clash concerning the local fire department. Eddie Doyle resigned as fire chief and five other firefighters have followed suit.