‘People are going to suffer:’ Sundre firefighters quit after longtime chief turfed

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He said he’s been unfairly cast by town Chief Administrative Officer Linda Nelson as a bully for the move but insists he had no choice but to “lay down the law,” adding his blunt style might also have contributed to his firing.

“I call it the way I see and sometimes it gets me into trouble,” he said, adding he couldn’t discuss details of the dispute for legal reasons.

The tensions between him and town officials have been building for years, said Butts, and could have been resolved long ago but have now left Sundre’s fire department in tatters.

“It took decades to build up a very respected fire department and it took only a day for (Nelson) to destroy it,” said Butts, who’s been a volunteer firefighter there for more than three decades.

“When you lose these kinds of people you don’t rebuild it overnight.”

Town officials have said they’re seeking a new fire chief and have agreements with neighbouring departments if help is needed.

Volunteer fire Captain Frank Crouch who’d served with Butts for the past 11 years said he’s “disgusted” with the firing, saying the former chief has been an exemplary leader.

“He’s the best ever — we’d follow him into burning buildings and he’s never, ever put anyone in jeopardy,” said Crouch.

More than half the department’s volunteers have quit, including himself, he said.

“I’m done, I’ve turned in my pager,” said Crouch, adding most of the town backs Butts.

“People are furious, they want Nelson out.”

Butts said only two members have agreed to remain and would be in danger if they faced serious situations alone.

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