South Surrey’s newest fire hall is now staffed by career firefighters, and while Surrey Fire Service officials are celebrating the addition, paid-on-call firefighters who previously operated out of the hall say they are frustrated by the transition.
Deputy fire Chief Jon Caviglia said career firefighters moved into Hall 14, at 2016 176 St., Jan. 28. It will become a composite hall, he said, meaning POC firefighters will continue to supplement the career force.
But while Dave Marshall, the district chief of the POC department – which has served the Hazelmere Valley for 65 years – accepts it is time for career firefighters to take over the area, he said the way the transition was handled has left his crew feeling disregarded.
“I won’t say I’m bitter, but I’m very disappointed in how it turned out for everyone.”
Marshall – with 29 years of service – said it was “obvious” to POC firefighters the new hall was being built for a career staff.
“That was well-accepted. That’s the way of the future,” he said, noting he considers his crew volunteers because of the extra work they provide, such as recruiting, maintaining grounds and taking care of vehicles.
However, Marshall said he was told on three occasions – as recently as January – that the volunteer crew would operate out of the new hall until a career staff could be brought in.
“There was the expectation that after the hall was built, the volunteer firefighters would staff it for two months, three months, a year – (the length) was all speculation.”
Marshall said he learned a few weeks ago that career firefighters would move into the new hall as soon as it was ready.
“We were kind of shocked. We’ve been working out of a temporary building that’s basically a big tin shed,” he said, referring to a building by the empty Grandview Heights Elementary. “To actually be working out of a real fire hall would have been a real treat.
“At the very last second, to have it yanked out from under your feet, it’s not how you treat people.”
Caviglia said Hall 14 was initially expected complete last November. The plan was for POC firefighters to operate out of it until a career crew could be brought over. However, completion was delayed, he said, and the hall was finished when a new crew was available.
“I understand their frustrations, but what we’re looking at is public safety,” he said, noting the new hall and career crew are being provided in preparation for growth. “If we’re able to staff that area with a career staff, we’re providing a better service.”
Caviglia said he is aware of a few “disgruntled” volunteers.
“It really has nothing to do with us wanting to make them unhappy, it’s just a few volunteers there have taken this personally and it’s not personal,” he said. “The volunteers at Hall 14 have provided a great service for the Hazelmere community... We certainly look forward to having the volunteers remain and continue to volunteer in the area.”
According to POC firefighter Jeff Franke, many of the members feel “bitterness and anger over this” and have quit.
Marshall, said he, too, will be moving on.
“My work here is done. The job I know how to do, to be a frontline responding volunteer firefighter protecting our area, is over now.”