The Leonora ambulance service has been rocked by the resignation of long-serving volunteers after a row broke out over the arrival of boat people in the town.
Tension over the row is also threatening to spill over and affect the local fire brigade. By last night two volunteer St John ambulance officers had resigned and a third was expected to quit.
The row flared over comments made by local resident Jo Ruprecht to Seven News at Leonora airport after the arrival of asylum seekers last week.
Ms Ruprecht told Channel 7 she was opposed to allowing in the asylum seekers, who she thought had received too much from the Government when others had to work for what they had.
Ms Ruprecht made the comments while wearing a St John shirt.
St John sent a regional manager to the town to talk to Ms Ruprecht, a volunteer for more than 13 years. It is believed she resigned after learning that St John was considering standing her down.
Another resident, Denise Norrie, a volunteer for 10 years, also resigned. She said she was disappointed with the treatment of Ms Ruprecht and felt she had been unfairly dealt with over the comments.
Mrs Norrie's brother Wayne Taylor is Ms Ruprecht's partner.
Ms Ruprecht said she happened to have been wearing the shirt when she was asked for her view because she had just finished an ambulance shift at the Leonora races.
She said she understood she should not have worn it and had apologised for doing so as soon as it was drawn to her attention.
"I don't think I should have been treated that way after 13 years," she said.
In a written statement, St John ambulance services director Len Fiori said: "We do not condone under any circumstances the comments made by the volunteer concerned.
"Upon learning of this behaviour we mobilised our regional manager to Leonora to counsel the volunteer concerned to ensure this behaviour is not repeated."
A St John spokeswoman said that if there were a number of resignations the ambulance service would make "alternative arrangements" which could include officers from other centres or paid paramedics.
"Leonora would not be without an ambulance service," the spokeswoman said.
Mr Taylor, who is captain of the Leonora fire brigade, said last night that he was unhappy with the way Ms Ruprecht had been treated after years of service which had seen her put up with being covered in blood and spat upon. "I don't agree with what they have done," he said.
Two plane loads of asylum seekers were transferred from Christmas Island to Leonora last Monday.