UPDATED: Winlaw Fire Department back on the job; chief reinstated

The suspension for Fire Chief Jon Wollenberg was lifted during a meeting with RDCK senior staff last night.

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* Updated at 9:15 a.m. Friday, Aug. 16 with a release from the RDCK and an email from Jon Wollenberg (see below main story).

The community of WInlaw can breathe a collective sigh of relief after their fire chief, Jon Wollenberg had his suspension lifted and the entire department is now back on the job.

Reached by phone Friday morning, Aug. 16, Wollenberg said that after meeting with RDCK senior staff and his firefighters Thursday night, the decision was made for his reinstatement.

The suspension occurred over what Regional Fire Chief Terry Swan said was insubordination involving Wollenberg and a decision made to not provide traffic flagging services for a community meeting.

“They reinstated me and apologized for how everything was handled,” said Wollenberg. “I went back to the members and they said they would come back on. That was their ultimatum; get the chief back and we’re back.”

He said the meeting lasted some time and involved discussions about how such a situation can be prevented in the future. The two sides are working on “flaws in the system” and that not everything was settled last night.

“It’s really too bad it had to come to this,” said Wollenberg. “The whole thing was completely unnecessary. If anything good can come of this it’s that I hope this doesn’t have to happen again and that fire chiefs and fire departments can be heard when they have a problem.”

Wollenberg said he plans on releasing an email with more later this morning.

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From the Regional District of Central Kootenay (press release):

The volunteer fire fighters of the Winlaw Fire Department have returned to active duty following a meeting last night with officials from the Regional District of Central Kootenay.

The proposed disciplinary suspension of the Winlaw Fire Chief, which prompted the volunteers to withdraw their services, has been revoked and the matter is being referred to a committee of four RDCK Fire Chiefs who will report back to the Chief Administrative Officer.

“The RDCK values the work of our volunteer firefighters I am pleased that we were able to find a resolution to this issue and to have the fire fighters in Winlaw return to serving their community.” states Brian Carruthers, CAO for the RDCK.

Area H Director Walter Popoff said he is grateful for the prompt involvement of CAO Carruthers and RDCK Chair Kettle in resolving the issue resulting in the return of the volunteer firefighters and their Fire Chief to active duty.

“The volunteers and their Fire Chief are to be commended for their dedication and service to the community,” said Popoff.

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From Jon Wollenberg (email):

Winlaw Fire is back in service. The department being out of service for the last two days drew a lot of attention from RDCK management and they were quickly at the table willing to listen. We have now come to an arrangement that will see change in our policy to insure this does not happen again. I have been given a apology from the Chair of the RDCK board John Kettle for how this situation was handled and he has reinstated me as Fire Chief. In light of this the department members decided to resume their roles as volunteer firefighters. I knew from the beginning I had the support of my members but what I didn’t expect was the extreme support from our neighbouring departments, other Fire Chiefs from around the province and most of all our community. I can safely say this result would not have been without their help. I’m proud to be volunteering for my community once again.

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