Four members of the Tisdale Fire Department were discharged, following Tisdale’s new fire chief Trevor Woolsey enforcing a policy requiring members to live within 10 minutes of town.
Among those discharged was James Wright who served 12 years with the department before he was let go – 11 while living outside of Tisdale.
During that time, he served about seven years as a captain, before becoming a training officer, a role he served for about a year before his discharge.
Despite living on a grid road off of Highway 35, Wright said he was able to respond to calls regularly based on his self-employed status with Crown Cabinets, which kept him in town about ten-and-a-half hours daily.
When responding from home, Wright said it would take him about 11 minutes to arrive at the hall.
“There was always a policy in place that you had to reside within town limits to be on the fire department, but it was kind of up to the discretion of the chief,” he said.
“We were all active members that were dedicated to the fire service within Tisdale, so it’s disappointing that that was the policy they wanted to take.”
Another one of the four, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed he was discharged from the department. While Wright was discharged via letter, the other member said he was discharged via phone call.
Through town records, obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request, a copy of a letter from Woolsey was presented to council during a committee of the whole meeting in June, discharging one fire department member.
The town stated it doesn’t have any records for the discharge of the other three.
According to the Saskatchewan Volunteer Fire Fighters Association, there isn’t a set standard for fire department policy throughout the province, with each department’s municipality responsible for making their own rules in line with the Saskatchewan Fire Safety Act.
Distance requirements aren’t out of the ordinary in policy either, with Melfort Fire and Rescue also using a 10 minute limit. Shaun Stewart, Melfort’s fire chief, said they enforce and interpret the rule on an individual basis.
“Each department will have their own set of bylaws for their department, their own constitution, and a lot of that gets laid out within it,” Stewart said. “Mine can be different than Tisdale’s, mine can be different than Kinistino’s, I know mine is different than Buckland because I was a member of Buckland Fire.”
He added that with Buckland Fire, members who lived outside of the community would keep their gear on them so they could respond directly to the call scene.
“It just depends on the specific fire department and what their protocols they have in place are.”
Wright said that if given the opportunity in the future to work with the Tisdale department he would be willing to go back.
“I’m not planning on moving anytime soon, so if policy changes down the road and they want to bring me back, whether it’s as a training officer position or just another firefighter I’m more than willing to go back,” Wright said. “The reason I got into it was to serve the community and given the opportunity, I’ll still do that.”
Woolsey did not respond to repeated efforts to reach him for comment.
Jessica R. Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal