The public relations battle over Okanagan Landing’s firefighters is heating up.
Just days after the Okanagan Landing Volunteer Firefighters Association held an open house to rally the public, the City of Vernon issued a release Wednesday to defend its decision to not renew the association’s contract and to have a single service model.
“I firmly believe that when there’s a co-operative team working together, that will benefit all areas of the community,” said Keith Green, Vernon’s fire chief.
The release directs residents to three documents city council used to make its decision not to renew the contract (www.vernon.ca/public_safety/fire/index.html).
“I hope this provides people with the opportunity to read the information and become aware,” said Green.
“My door is always open and I am willing to answer questions.”
The city says its integrated model includes common operating guidelines, the ability to deploy resources in a co-ordinated manner, the ability to cross-train all firefighters and a single command structure.
Under the new service model, all Landing volunteers can join the Vernon Volunteer Firefighters Association. One of the 28 has opted to do so.
“The invitation is for them to service out of that (Landing) station so there’s not a lot of change for them,” said Green.
The Vernon department also recently held a recruitment drive, and four volunteers are currently being trained while another four will be trained in the spring.
“We will open up the application process again in the spring. There is a lot of interest,” said Green.
The OKLVFA is not impressed with the city’s media release or making reports available to the public.
“It would have been nice for the city to talk to us right from the get-go. The documents were first presented (to council) in-camera,” said Todd Montgomery, OKLVA president.
“Some of the documents are one-sided. The decisions were made based on reports written by chief Green. They didn’t hear from the Landing firefighters.”
The association has launched a petition to have its contract renewed and it wants to appear before city council as a delegation.
“We have arguments against a lot of chief Green’s views,” said Montgomery.