Volunteer Firefighter International

Govt. Prohibits Fire Dept. Mutual Aid Over Unpaid Bills, Home Burns

By Michele LeTourneau, Brandon Sun

Unpaid bills are the reason two fire departments did not respond to calls about a house fire at Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation on May 30.

Audrey Bone called 911 when the camper next to her house caught fire. RCMP then called the Shoal Lake and Strathclair fire departments. One fire chief oversees the two departments since those communities amalgamated under the Rural Municipality of Yellowhead. The call came to both fire departments, and both said they would not respond.

Additionally, the band’s own aged pumper arrived late and, according to Bone, it broke down after firefighters drained all the water out.

Bone’s home burned to the ground.

Calling it a sensitive issue, Yellowhead Mayor Merv Starzyk said fire Chief Rick Eastcott was acting under the direction of council.

“It was council that decided by resolution not to respond to any calls, basically because of lack of compensation from the First Nation community, and arrears,” Starzyk said, adding it’s when the two communities amalgamated in 2015 that Keeseekoowenin arrears came to light.

Starzyk said if the First Nation calls, it must foot the bill, but if the RCMP calls, the First Nation isn’t on the hook for the bill.

Read the full story here.

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