Letter: Firefighting experience lacking

The lack of volunteers in Shirley may lead to delay in response

Attention:  If you live in Shirley, please read this:

 

It is with great sadness, frustration and fear that I write this letter.  Only one month ago I wrote a letter singing the praises of the Shirley Volunteer Fire Department and the level of devotion, commitment and professionalism that Donovan Ray has shown in his role as chief.

Since that time, the SVFD has essentially been destroyed. There is much confusion and shock as to how this could have happened to what several SVFD volunteers have named ‘the best fire department they have been a part of.’ As a mother of two young children living in our remote community of Shirley, I am scared for the lack of emergency response that now exists and I am angry and frustrated about how and why this has happened.

Approximately one month ago, the Shirley Fire Commission sent an e-mail notifying our volunteers that Chief Donovan Ray had resigned.  This was unexpected and definitely did not seem in line with Donovan’s intentions for the fire department and his role in it. When news of Donovan’s surprise resignation reached the other volunteer firefighters, the response revealed that something in stark contradiction to the fire department’s role of serving the community was going on behind the scenes.  Immediately, responding e-mails came pouring in with five core members announcing their resignation, based on their solidarity with Donovan and their disillusionment with the Fire Commission and its role.

The direct and immediate result is that there is essentially no emergency response in Shirley right now and no coherent, healthy fire department.

It makes me feel sick to my stomach to think of the hours of blood, sweat and tears that Donovan has put into the SVFD and into protecting our rural community… volunteer hours… and this is the way he gets treated?

And what is the community left with? An acting chief who has served just over two years on the fire department.  Three other members, with around two years experience or less. This leaves us with really only one remaining member of the fire department who has the skill and experience necessary to take charge in a true emergency;  former chief  Rob VanVeen. If he happens to be out of district during an emergency, we are not left with much.  It has already happened since this all went down that the fire department answered an out-of-district call that took our remaining members and our trucks out of Shirley and then there was an emergency in Shirley that the Otter Point department had to respond to.  How very scary and unnecessary.

If there are people responsible for this happening, please come forward so we can work together to find resolution. Because of this unfortunate situation, lives are at risk and the significant amount of money I and other Shirley property owners pay through our property taxes to have emergency response and fire protection in our community are being wasted.

I, for one, intend to get to the bottom of what has happened and support working together with the community and our committed volunteers to build a solid foundation for our Fire Commission and department so our chief and our core members feel confident to return and continue with the phenomenal job they have been doing.

A meeting is planned for October 23 at 7 p.m. at the Shirley Hall.  Please, all who care about having ER services and Fire Protection in Shirley please come out and have your voices heard.

Let’s show our gratitude to Donovan and our volunteers who have felt they need to step away for all the volunteer hours they have dedicated.

Let’s find out exactly why most of our core volunteers left when Donovan mysteriously resigned, what our core volunteers require to get back on the job, and let’s make that happen, immediately.

Amanda Swinimer-Burley

Shirley