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Rexton firefighters walk off job after dispute with municipality

The 23 active members of the Rexton Volunteer Fire Department walked off the job Thursday. (Rexton volunteer fire department/Facebook - image credit)
The 23 active members of the Rexton Volunteer Fire Department walked off the job Thursday. (Rexton volunteer fire department/Facebook - image credit)

Shortly before 7 p.m. Thursday the 23 members of the Rexton volunteer fire department gathered at their fire hall as the deadline in their conflict with the Five Rivers municipality drew closer.

They had said they would turn in their their emergency pagers and walk off the job if several changes weren't made.

The deadline came and went without a solution and the firefighters confirmed they followed through on their ultimatum.

"One of the worst days I've ever had," said Warren Goodwin, the assistant deputy fire chief.

"People were clearly upset. A lot of tears. A lot of memories here. It's just awful."

The department gave the municipality — an amalgamated community that includes Rexton and portions of several former local service districts in Kent County — an ultimatum on Wednesday.

Goodwin says while the department had discussions via email with the municipality on Thursday, the firefighters felt they were insufficient.

"The email was very brief," said Goodwin.

"It didn't address any of the issues we had concerns with."

CBC News reached out to Five Rivers Mayor Tina Beers for comment on Wednesday, but she did not respond.

Budget conflict

The fire department cited several concerns, but said conflict over the department's budget was the catalyst for the dispute.

The municipality is served by two volunteer fire departments — Rexton and Beersville-Harcourt.

The Rexton department alleges their budget is significantly less than the budget for Beersville-Harcourt.

Goodwin said while both departments serve areas of comparable sizes, the Rexton department is responsible for a great deal more infrastructure.

However, in a Facebook post on Thursday, Mark Perry, the chief of the Beersville-Harcourt volunteer fire department, defended his budget, saying they have two buildings with more members and pieces of equipment than Rexton.

"The Beersville-Harcourt Department coverage area is twice the size, if not more, [than] the Rexton Fire Dept coverage area," said Perry in the post.

"It costs more money for equipment, for training, for fuel, for heating, for snow removal and everyday operations."

Goodwin said while the firefighters are ready and willing to come back, there needs to be some movement from the municipality.

But he doesn't see any evidence of that yet.

Both the municipality and the Rexton department said they have reached out to neighbouring fire departments and the fire marshal's office to inform them of the situation.

CBC News reached out to the Department of Public Safety, which includes the fire marshal's office, for comment but has not received a response.