Okanagan Landing firefighters pursue public support

Okanagan Landing firefighters aren’t giving up without a fight.

Okanagan Landing firefighters aren’t giving up without a fight.

To protest the City of Vernon cancelling its contract, the Okanagan Landing Volunteer Firefighters Association will hold an open house Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the fire hall There is also a petition and a Facebook page to garner public support.

“We want council to give us our contract back. We believe they made a mistake,” said Todd Montgomery, OKLVFA president.

“We hope to have several thousand signatures on the petition and put some pressure on them. We don’t want to give up on this. The association gives so much to the community and to taxpayers.”

In trying to bring the Landing firefighters under the Vernon Volunteer Firefighters Association, the city states it is trying to create a co-operative approach.

“The argument doesn’t hold up. There have been many situations under the existing contract where the city career professionals, Vernon volunteers and members of Okanagan Landing have worked together as a cohesive team,” said Montgomery.

The OKLVFA also points out that its members are responsible for recruitment, training, purchasing, maintenance and janitorial duties.

“When the fire hall becomes a part of the VVFA as currently planned by the city, these jobs will be done by paid city staff,” said Montgomery.

Montgomery also believes there will be reduced training and meeting days by 30 per cent.

“There will be a big gap (if Landing firefighters quit instead of join the  VVFA) and that can be avoided if they negotiate a contract,” he said.

However, the city denies the OKLVFA’s claims.

“Volunteers will continue to perform fire hall duties,” said Keith Green, Vernon fire chief.

“A reduction of 30 per cent for training? I’m not sure where they get their information. The Vernon volunteers train three Tuesdays a month and there is one meeting night a month.”

In terms of claims that the current working relationship is sound, Green expresses concerns,

“I don’t know many of their members and that doesn’t sound like a cohesive team to me,” he said.

Mayor Rob Sawatzky questions the Landing firefighters’ campaign.

“I wonder on what basis they are asking for community support given that all members have been invited to serve at the Landing hall,” he said.

Green insists that not all Landing firefighters are upset with the new service model.

“We’ve already had one of their members join our team and there are close to 20 that are interested,” he said.

Montgomery admits that at least one member has committed to the VVFA.

“It’s a personal choice for each member. Nothing is held against any member that joins the VVFA,” he said.

The contract with the Landing association  ends Jan. 31, 2013.