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Willow Creek MD closes Moon River fire department

MD of Willow Creek council decided last week to close the Moon River Estates Fire Department.
The decision came at council’s July 16 meeting, after a closed session discussion.
MD of Willow Creek chief administrative officer Cynthia Vizzutti was seeking direction from council.
Vizzutti said the municipality cannot deliver fire protection service for Class 4 insurance coverage as the Moon River fire department does not meet the requirements of the fire underwriters’ survey, and has not them for years.
Vizzutti pointed out having a roster of 15 members will not bring the department into compliance, and they have about half that now. There are also training, equipment and response requirements.
Vizzutti explained there is a misconception the MD of Willow Creek created the Moon River Fire Department.
The MD of Willow Creek inherited the department when the subdivision came under the municipality’s jurisdiction.
Vizzutti also took issue with several comments made at the last council meeting regarding the fire department.
Vizzutti said Moon River was invited to all training, and the trainer has devoted his weekends to make training work.
When it was said Moon River firefighters received no training on site, they in fact had received driving training at their own fire hall.
Vizzutti also took exception to the comment the Moon River members were mistreated by the Fort Macleod Fire Department when they did attend training.
“There is a camaraderie,” Vizzutti said, adding the Fort Macleod fire department never made Moon River feel less than welcome.
Vizzutti concluded by saying through no fault of their own, Moon River has a fire department that is not in compliance with the necessary requirements, and “with a heavy heart” recommended its closure.
“This is based on nothing personal,” Vizzutti said. “It’s not because they won’t, it’s because they can’t.”
The MD of Willow Creek would also be looking at a significant capital outlay to bring the department into compliance.
Coun. Henry Van Hierden said the municipality has made significant contributions to equipment in the Fort Macleod department so Moon River won’t be at a huge disadvantage.
Council then deferred making a decision until it had more time to discuss it in a close session.
When council reverted to open session, they passed a motion to close the Moon River Estates Fire Department.
A recorded vote was requested with Reeve Neil Wilson, and councillors Henry Van Hierden, John Kroetsch, Glen Alm, Earl Hemmaway and Ian Sundquist voting in favour of closure, and Coun. Maryanne Sandberg opposed.

2 Comments For This Post

  1. Les Hilliard Says:

    As a resident of moon River Estates that will be directly affected by this decision, I feel I must add clarification to the story as published. The Moon River Station was under direct control of the M.D of Willow Creek as the M.D. provided all funds, equipment and owned the building. The fact that the MD. decided to close it down with no recourse to the residents of Moon River proved that indeed this was not a separate fire department, but a substation of the M.D of Willow Creek. When the option of Moon River forming it;s own Fire Department to be housed in the now empty station, the request was refused by the M.D.

    Cynthia Vizzutti states that the M.D “inherited the department” and I would add that this happened back in the late 1990s. Since that time, the M.D of Willow Creek has not made any attempt to supply the required apparatus (a tanker truck and a pumper truck) to meet the required Insurance Regulations despite having several Provincial grants available to do this. In fact, the M.D. expanded the fire station structure by adding an additional bay and promising and second fire truck that never arrived within the past 3 years. As a resident, I personally am getting tired of hearing the inherited comment. For over 20 years now, the M.D. has been getting our tax money, our utility money and has been handing out develop permits hand over fist, yet we still are looked at like some sort of not wanted step child. I think the MD should put this attitude to rest and stop reminding rhe residents that they were inherited.

    I also take offense to Vizzutti’s comments about training at the fire station as the documents supplied by Travis Coleman (Manager of Emergency Services) stated that any training at the Moon River Station would be impossible. Vizzutti’s statement saying that driver training being done at the station is also questioned as there are no areas within the subdivision that would allow training with 5 ton trucks to perform the required maneuvers on a two lane asphalt road. Clearly she is misinformed. In clarification, the firefighters DID receive a first aid course at the fire hall. No NFPA or other recognized standard courses were taught at the Moon River Station including a recognized Professional Driver’s Course such as the IAPD.

    As for her comment taking exception tot he comment about mistreatment of Moon River’s members during training sessions, Vizzutti is not a firefighter and has never been so she does not know what she speaks. As a former Fire Chief of a small town, I have personally seen this from time to time and took direct steps to quash it While not common, it does happen. Vizzutti also cannot comment on the feelings of another individual unless she is directly involved. If a person was insulted, then that is a personal feeling and should be addressed to the individual. On a sad note, despite closing the Station, no thanks of any kind was given to the brave volunteers of the Moon River Fire Station as of this writing by the M.D. Is this not also an insult?

    While the residents of moon River look forward to working together with the Fort MacLeod Fire Department, Coun. Henry Van Hierden did not address the issue of the delayed response from Fort MacLeod to Moon River Estates. Response times from the Fort MacLeod Fire Hall to the first hydrant in Moon River Estates could take as long as 71 minutes based on disengagement from task, responding to the Fort MacLeod Fire Hall, whether a train is crossing through Fort MacLeod and road conditions. These times have been accurately compiled on several accessions. It is not the fault of the Fort MacLeod freighters, it is a logistics problem. In 71 minutes, a structure that is burning will be severely compromised and the chance of survival bleak to nil. So, by closing the Moon River Fire Station, the Fort MacLeod firefighters will be put in greater danger if they try to perform a rescue or offensive attack. What contributions has the M.D of Willow Creek given to the Fort MacLeod Fire Department to address this?

    The residents of Moon River are looking forward to working with the Fort MacLeod Fire Department in order to address several safety concerns that the MD of Willow Creek did not. The Provincial Fire Smart Program that the Alberta Fire Commissioner’s Office is promoting is one and the access to mobility challenged persons is another.

    Lastly, as my family and neighbor’s safety is now being threatened due to the lack of first responders in my community, despite Vizztti’s thoughts, I DO take this as a personal issue. It seems Moon River (being inherited) does not seem to rank as high as Granum, Stavely, Claresholm and Nanton despite adding to the MD. coffers. By closing the Fire Station in Moon River despite the community’s attempts to work with the M.D. council to resolve the problem. it is now clear to us that we are not viewed on the same level as the rest of the communities within the M.D. of Willow Creek.

    These are my personal views and do not comprise those of my employer or any professional agencies I am a member of.

  2. John A. Seim Says:

    As a resident of the jurisdiction affected by the closure of the Moon River Estates Fire Department I am disappointed that the MD chose to close the facility when, in fact, it should have been upgraded. Local residents here feel that the FD “died the death of a thousand cuts” by being underfunded as well as generally undersupported by the MD for years prior to the closure. Local residents will now be looking at a minimum of 30minutes response times to emergencies, no planned improvement in existing fire-hydrant services, and no contingency for the emergency evacuation of a number of local shut-in persons. Furthermore, the closure will potentially seriously adversely affect adjacent communities, particularly to the east, in the event of a serious wildfire. Notwithstanding the direction given by the Minister of Municipal Affairs that emergency infrastructure be improved, a backwards, penny-pinching decision by the MD of Willow Creek risks serious consequences to property, wildlife habitat and to human residents!