North Westside chief disputes absence

RDCO says chief Carson requested a leave of absence - Carson disagrees with description of the situation

Uncertainty continues to swirl around the North Westside Fire Department.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan says longtime chief Wayne Carson has requested a leave of absence but Carson disagrees with that description of the situation.

“The word ‘requested’ wasn’t mine. I did not request a leave,” he said.

Carson, who has been chief for 19 years, was suspended by the regional district for three days in June. The details for the suspension have never been made public.

While he was back on duty after the suspension, Carson says his leave began July 8.

“I wish I could tell the community everything,” he said.

“There are some issues going on in the fire department and I hope we can find a solution that is best for the department and the community.”

When asked about his future, Carson says, “As far as I know, I will be returning but I don’t have a date on it.”

RDCO has announced that in Carson’s absence, Doug Gardiner has been named interim chief.

Gardiner is a retired assistant chief and training officer, who served in Saanich for 27 years.

“Dedicated members of North Westside Fire Rescue continue to assist their neighbours by answering calls for medical first response and fire emergencies,” said Dan Wildeman, RDCO’s fire services manager.

“This temporary placement will ensure going into this potentially busy summer fire season that an experienced professional is in place to provide the leadership, training and mentoring for those dedicated paid-on-call fire department members who are committed to serving their community.”

Wildeman says senior officers with the department suggested that a retired professional chief be considered for this temporary role to ensure community safety and management.

RDCO has stated that any questions about Carson are confidential because they deal with personnel matters.

A deputy chief and training officer resigned after Carson was suspended.

The president of the North Westside Ratepayers Association is not concerned about the situation at the fire department.

“We have to have trust in our new fire services manager,” said Diane Baldwin.

“They (RDCO) have come in and made some changes.”