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Fire consultant discussed prior to chief's departure

Behr Fire Service supporting Sundre Fire Department through transition
MVT stock Sundre Fire Department back
Behr Fire Services has been brought in to help the 12 remaining firefighters transition after the departure of the Sundre Fire Department's former chief and other firefighters. File photo/MVP Staff

SUNDRE — The municipality was looking into a consulting firm that provides managerial support for fire departments undergoing transitions prior to the former chief’s sudden departure.

“We had started thinking about that, probably close to two weeks ago,” said Linda Nelson, chief administrative officer, during an interview on Tuesday, Aug. 25.

News that former chief and 30-plus year veteran Marty Butts had departed from the position became public on Monday, Aug. 17. The move ignited backlash from many people in the community, who rallied in support of Butts and demanded he be reinstated, which local officials have said will not happen.

The former chief’s departure also prompted numerous resignations within the department, which now has a dozen members who remain ready to respond.

Alex Clews has been named the acting fire chief.

RELATED: Town names Sundre Fire Department acting fire chief

She praised the “brave, dedicated volunteers” who have remained.

“We’re so grateful to these people,” she said, adding the acting chief “has the full support of those fantastic people who have remained on.”

The town is, and always was, protected, she said.

“The town was never left in an unsafe situation. We’re a municipality — we have a duty to keep people safe, and we take that very seriously.”

Addressing comments some people made that Behr was brought in to act as the fire department, she said, “Absolutely not. We have been assured that the number of firefighters that we have now, have the ability to respond to any emergency.”

The consultant is essentially helping to provide steering assistance during the transition process, she said.

“Behr services is in to support the firefighters and the acting chief until we get somebody more permanent in — so, that’s what their role is.”

She could not say for certain how long Behr’s services would be required, but added “this is not something long term.”

Asked what kind of expense could be expected, she said, “That might be a question for little bit later, because we really haven’t had those in-depth conversations.”

Bound by privacy laws, she could not say who filed the complaint with Occupational Health and Safety, which triggered an investigation that resulted in an order for harassment-related training being issued. The department was subsequently in compliance as of March. 

The unfolding situation has consumed much of administration’s time, with no shortage of calls, emails and questions pouring in.

“I probably can’t even count the number,” said Nelson.

While there have been rude and intimidating comments personally levelled against her as well as members of council, she said there have also been “very heart-warming and encouraging” messages as well.

“Although I’ve taken a few lumps and bumps for standing up for what is right, it’s not just bumps and lumps. I’m also receiving a lot of support, so I’m very thankful for that,” she said.

“It’s not always easy to stand up for what you know you need to do.”