The chief of the volunteer fire department in Wadena, Sask. is concerned about emergency responses in a nearby community.
Harold Narfason says the Fishing Lake First Nation, located approximately 25 kilometres southeast of Wadena, has a lapsed contract with his fire crew.
Last month, two toddlers died in a fire on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation. The nearest volunteer firefighters had a contract there in the past, but it was cancelled, reportedly over unpaid bills.
Narfason said his department no longer responds to fires at Fishing Lake.
“It was four years that they hadn’t paid and we were over $60,000 in debt,” he said. “Where do you continue going and where do you stop? That was our hardest decision,”
Narfason said the First Nation received a letter about the debts, and a community board decided to cancel the contract due to the unpaid money.
However, the Wadena Volunteer Fire Department still responds to Fishing Lake for emergencies that require extractions using the jaws of life as well as to support STARS Air Ambulance crews.
Narfason said other nearby volunteer fire departments are now called to Fishing Lake in the event of a fire, but it’s difficult to know that they may be further away in the event of a fire.
He said his volunteers have discussed what they would do if a fire started there and lives were at stake.
“Whether we had board approval to take the equipment or not, we would, as volunteers, take the trucks and go,” Narfason said. “If we get charged with stealing a fire truck, we would deal with the situation then.”
He said he is “terrified” when he hears of fires in the community. Since the contract ended, he said he has heard word of multiple house fires and a fire at a sports complex. He said it’s a relief that nobody was hurt in any of those incidents.
A Fishing Lake official told CBC News the community has two working fire trucks, and that the First Nation is looking into paying the bill to the Wadena Volunteer Fire Department.
On mobile? Click here to view the map showing the distance between Fishing Lake First Nation and Wadena.