Wheatland County council has decided to close the doors of the Cluny fire hall for good due to a lack of volunteers stepping up to man the facility.
Regional Fire Chief Michael Bourgon spoke to county council June 1, with a recommendation to permanently close the station, which has been out of operation since January.
“The volunteers, they weren’t able to commit. Unfortunately, there just isn’t the same amount of volunteers that there was a decade ago,” said Bourgon.
Though Bourgon was not present in the area 10 years ago, he said that to his understanding, the station used to have a very strong volunteer base and a strong fire department.
He estimated that over the years commitments and demographics changed, and the new generation was simply unable or uninterested in volunteering to keep the station operational.
“Over the years, people retire, people move, and unfortunately it wasn’t sustainable and the community wasn’t able to maintain it. This is the reality of it. We need to move forward and ensure (residents are) protected.”
County administration has since been directed to implement the emergency services strategy for the Gleichen Fire Department with secondary coverage from the Hussar Fire Department.
According to Bourgon, the Gleichen and Hussar fire departments are fully capable of responding to incidents in Cluny just as handily as the local detachment once did.
In 2019, the Cluny fire hall was closed by Wheatland County’s fire services division due to workplace health and safety concerns.
The hall was subsequently reopened in early 2020 with adequate volunteers to effectively operate the detachment.
In June 2020, an operational meeting was held with the Cluny fire chief, with numerous similar meetings held thereafter. County fire services found inconsistencies in response times, training and legal documents.
The former Cluny fire chief officially resigned on Jan. 20, 2020, stating he and his detachment were no longer interested or committed as volunteers to maintaining services.
Bourgon added several meetings were scheduled in 2021 in an attempt to recruit new volunteers, but by the end of April, no results were yielded.
According to the Fire Underwriters Survey, Cluny is currently listed as having no fire protection. Closing the local fire hall will have no effect on the rates residents pay for insurance premiums.
For the purposes of insurance, Bourgon added the Cluny detachment was not a recognized fire department.
The reallocation of materials and resources from the Cluny fire hall will be discussed at the fire council committee meeting on Aug. 5.
Wheatland County administration has been directed to prepare a plan for the consolidation and is to report back to council during the 2022 budget deliberations.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times