New chief for embattled fire department

The Regional District of Central Okanagan has hired Doug Gardiner as North Westside fire chief

Officials hope a smouldering dispute has been doused at the North Westside Fire Department.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan has hired Doug Gardiner to be the department’s full-time chief. This comes two months after long time chief Wayne Carson resigned over a battle with RDCO.

“As far as I’m concerned, this should bring the conflict to an end,” said Jim Edgson, area director.

Gardiner has been acting as the department’s interim chief since early August.

“I’ve been watching Doug and communicating with some of the firefighters and I am very impressed with him,” said Edgson.

“In talking to some of the firefighters, they want Doug to stay.”

Carson, who had been chief for 19 years, resigned Sept. 16, claiming he had no choice given allegations and job changes being made by the regional district.

He was originally suspended by the regional district for three days in June but details around that circumstance have never been made public.

Carson then returned to duties after the suspension but a leave of absence began July 8. RDCO has stated Carson requested the leave but Carson has denied that occurred.

Gardiner has 27 years experience as a firefighter and he retired as assistant chief in charge of training in Saanich.  He also has experience in marine rescue.

“Morale in the department has remained high,” said Bruce Smith, RDCO communications officer. “Since August when Doug began, we have had four new and two previous members join the department.”

Carson continues to insist that he was treated unfairly by the regional district.

“I defended the projects on the fire department’s books before some regional district staff arrived,” he said, adding that dispute was more personality based than a personnel matter.

Carson says he has no plans to sue RDCO even though, he claims, some challenges remain.

“They have refused me a letter