A disagreeable departure for former Bay Roberts fire chief

Nicholas Mercer
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Ousted Bay Roberts fire chief Clarence Russell is crying foul over what he calls constitutional changes ahead of the department’s Jan. 27 election of officers.

Former Bay Roberts fire chief Clarence Russell has cut ties with the brigade after being ousted from the top post last month.

During an interview with The Compass in the kitchen of his Coley’s Point home on Feb. 10, Russell said there were what he feels, changes made to the constitution a week prior to the election that he did not agree with.

Russell lost the election to Adam Norman, and has since quit the brigade.

The controversy revolves around the allowance of new members serving a one-year probation period to vote during the election of officers.

“It was brought to the floor a week prior to give them the right to vote,” said Russell.

While serving this one-year period, new firefighters are required to attend 51 per cent of related activities to stay with the department, but very little else.

The four new members were given the ability to cast a vote, which Russell feels is a violation.

“It states any changes to the constitution must be made three months prior to elections,” he said.

However, newly minted Chief Norman said the accustations levied against the department are unfounded.

He said the constitution does not clearly state that new members are not able to vote.

Because of this, the fire chief said the issue was brought to firefighters by the executive.

“Where it does not say in black and white, the body decided to follow what we have been doing for as long as anyone could remember and allow the new members to vote,” said Norman.  

While he was disappointed to be displaced as fire chief, a position he has held for the past 12 years, Russell understands the voting process.

“Everyone has their democratic right,” he said.

It was not because of the vote that Russell decided to cut ties with the department.

“If you can’t go by the rules, I don’t want any part of it,” he said.

Russell said he would have loved to remain a member of the department.

His two-plus decades of experience would have been an asset to both the new fire chief and the department itself as it moves forward.

“I can’t get past the way the rules were broken,” he said.

Russell suggested an alternative approach. He believes the town council should have the authority to name a fire chief.

  

A solid brigade

The Bay Roberts Volunteer Fire Department has come a long way during Russell’s time at the helm.

He remembers working with former chief Newman Parsons in order to deal with the remuneration package. When Russell and Parsons started the process, firefighters were receiving some $10,000 in remuneration between them.

That has since grown. In the past two budgets, the department has been allotted $30,000 for firefighter remuneration.

“I’m proud of that,” he said.

The department has added numerous pieces of new equipment, including a state-of-the-art rescue van, pick-up trucks, as well as an extension to the fire hall.

“We’ve also obtained land and built a training centre here,” said Russell.

In one of his last acts as fire chief, Russell and the department acquired a new ladder truck for the department.

When it comes to equipment, Russell believes the Bay Roberts department compares favourably to the one found in St. John's.

All of this was done with the full support of the town council.

“When you’ve got support of the town, you’ve got it made,” said Russell.

 

Work support

Russell made special note of the support his firefighters get from their places of employment.

When a call comes in, it is not strange to find more than a dozen vehicles move swiftly to the fire hall on Water Street in Bay Roberts.

Russell works at the Bay Arena in Bay Roberts. He said if a call came in during the day, it was no trouble for him to leave for an hour and return.

By all accounts, Russell was as a dedicated member of the fire department.

If you happened to be around the scene of an accident or a fire, it was not strange to find Russell there.

“I loved getting the phone calls and answering the questions,” he said.

As for his future, Russell has aspirations of continuing to work in the emergency response sector, and plans to seek employment as an ambulance attendant.

nmercer@cbncompass.ca

Organizations: The Compass, Bay Roberts Volunteer Fire Department

Geographic location: Bay Roberts, St. John's, Water Street

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Recent comments

  • GREENS ROAD
    February 17, 2014 - 14:51

    Trouble getting the KEY, well CLARENCE RUSSELL was the fire chief and he did have a RESPONSIBILITY,( RESPONSIBILITY taking the blame if anything goes wrong or missing !!!!) think about it. you did a EX JOB FIRE CHIEF Clarence Russell, Thank you for all you have done for the people in Bay Roberts.

    • Firefighter
      February 18, 2014 - 16:59

      It is a regional training ground, which means each and every town/ fire department involved have the responsibility over the grounds. NOT just Mr Russell. Who done/ does the up keep of the building? I know of one department that did/ do and it sure wasn't Mr Russell's. Congratulations to the new chief and good luck !

  • GREENS ROAD
    February 17, 2014 - 14:47

    Trouble getting the KEY, well CLARENCE RUSSELL was the fire chief and he did have a RESPONSIBILITY,( RESPONSIBILITY taking the blame if anything goes wrong or missing !!!!) think about it. you did a EX JOB FIRE CHIEF Clarence Russell, Thank you for all you have done for the people in Bay Roberts.

  • GREENS ROAD
    February 17, 2014 - 14:45

    Trouble getting the KEY, well CLARENCE RUSSELL was the fire chief and he did have a RESPONSIBILITY,( RESPONSIBILITY taking the blame if anything goes wrong or missing !!!!) think about it. you did a EX JOB FIRE CHIEF Clarence Russell, Thank you for all you have done for the people in Bay Roberts.

  • GREENS ROAD
    February 15, 2014 - 00:03

    You did a GOOD job Fire Chief Clarence Russell and don't let NEGATIVE people put you down. We have heard a lot of GOOD things you have done for the Fire Dept over the years. You should have STAYED on. Hope to see Fire Chief Clarence Russell TAKE BACK his place he was well Trusted.

  • Firefighter Supporter
    February 14, 2014 - 21:44

    Well it seems as if Mr Russell couldn't accept being defeated which lead him to quit so quick I guess it made a big difference when he couldn't be in control of everyone any longer! Well I for one couldn't be happier to see him gone hopefully now the fire dept can get along as a team and not just a one man show. Im sure a lot of people along with myself wonder what hes gonna drive around in now that he doesn't have the fire dept pick up any longer which im sure was quite the hefty gas bill being paid by the taxpayers of our town! Well Mr Russell looks like you weren't so well liked after all and I wish the new chief and his firefighters nothing but the best and im sure they will do just fine without you!

  • Firefighter Supporter
    February 14, 2014 - 21:39

    Well it seems as if Mr Russell couldn't accept being defeated which lead him to quit so quick I guess it made a big difference when he couldn't be in control of everyone any longer! Well I for one couldn't be happier to see him gone hopefully now the fire dept can get along as a team and not just a one man show. Im sure a lot of people along with myself wonder what hes gonna drive around in now that he doesn't have the fire dept pick up any longer which im sure was quite the hefty gas bill being paid by the taxpayers of our town! Well Mr Russell looks like you weren't so well liked after all and I wish the new chief and his firefighters nothing but the best and im sure they will do just fine without you!

  • A Bay Roberts Citizen
    February 14, 2014 - 18:28

    I guess it just goes to show when Mr Russell lost his postion as fire chief he decided to quit because he was no longer in control well guess what I think the BRFD will be better now then it ever was,the best decision he ever made was to quit! I also wonder what vechicle he will drive all the time that he doesn't have the Fire Depts. pick up to drive at a cost to the fire dept and the towns taxpayers?? Id say suck it up princess and its time to realize that you Mr Russell weren't so well liked afterall and that our Fire Dept can run just perfectly without you

  • FF next door!
    February 14, 2014 - 15:36

    Not to bad mouth Mr. Russell, he has shown great leadership in the past and has many accomplishments, but it is time for him to respect his dept's decision in electing their new chief. Adam has definitely earned his title! Congrats to the BRFD and I look forward to working with you all this year!

  • BH
    February 14, 2014 - 13:23

    Wishing the NEW Fire Chief all the best! It was needed very much for the Dept to move forward. Good Luck to the new BRFD!

  • BRFD Supporter
    February 13, 2014 - 21:58

    The timing of Mr. Russell's departure from the fire brigade indicates that he could not graciously accept defeat. A firefighter whose heart and best interest lay within the department would not have up and quit immediately following an election. This only goes to show that Mr. Russell wanted to be at the helm or nothing at all and was in it for only himself. Why is the former chief now stating in the local news paper, WEEKS after an article was written about the election, that it was not conducted properly? Trying to improve his public image after quitting? According to this article, the department has always allowed new members to vote - so what difference does it make this year? If new members were always able to cast a vote, then hasn't Mr. Russell availed of their votes during election years when he had won the vote for chief? Why would Mr. Russell suggest as an alternative that the town council should appoint a fire chief? Does he think this would have helped his cause? Does he feel that the fire dept members should not be able to vote as a body about who they would like to lead their brigade? It's high time for Mr. Russell to GIVE IT A REST - accept the events that have unfolded and the choices he has made. The people of Conception Bay North area won't be so naive as to be fooled by this article! This story has sour grapes written all over it. Congratulations to the BRFD on moving forward! All the best!

  • National Inquirer
    February 13, 2014 - 21:29

    Wow!! The compass is as bad as the national inquirer ! This isn't even news it's the story of a sore LOSER!!! Doing nothing but whining and complaining!! Why didn't they talk about how new members on probation have been voting in that fire hall for the last 4-5 elections ??? Weird he didn't have any problem with it then!! THE STORY OF A CRY BABY that what the article should be called grow up mr.russell you lost fair and square the same as other chiefs across the island !!!! Congratulations to mr.norman I hope you treat your fireball and firemen with the respect they deserve!

  • AB
    February 13, 2014 - 18:55

    C'mon Clarence, give it a rest. You got beat fair and square. Same rules were in place when you won your elections so don't be talking such nonsense. And don't insult people's intelligence by saying that you didn't resign because of the vote. And no, with that sort of attitude, your experience would have been of no benefit to the new Chief, or the Department, so you probably did the right thing by getting out of it. The best thing you can do now is man up, move on, and let the new Chief and his Department do their jobs.

  • fireman's wife
    February 13, 2014 - 17:59

    The only problem I see here is that Mr Russell didn't win.If he would of had the support of the new members he would not of had any trouble whatsoever with them voting.He knew going into it that that night he was a goner !!The Dept needed a change, a fresh face and that's what they got.Thanks be to God.You would't know what he(Mr.Russell) was the saving grace to the Bay Roberts Fire Dept.Sorry Mr.Russell your not!!The Dept is a team effort thats something Mr.Russell knew little about!!! I for one am happy that we have a new Chief.Congratulations Adam Norman and the rest of the Dept.Job well done!

  • A firefighter supporter
    February 13, 2014 - 17:57

    As a strong supporter of the fire department and each member, I have to say that I think the department made a good choice getting rid of him. These men and women need to remain a solid brotherhood and Clarence did the complete opposite by causing so much turmoil. Adam will be a great chief and will do the department proud!

  • Former firefighter
    February 13, 2014 - 17:29

    Well now you know how it feels mr Russell. All those people you tricked and kicked out of the dept for NO reason ( myself being one ) are smiling today!! Don't feel nice do it boy looks good on you and it just goes to show that you wernt really there for the dept and the people of bay Roberts if you just gave up and quit! You are a hoax suck it up and take the defeat like a man!! Congrats Adam Norman And keep up the fine work boys of the dept

  • Joe
    February 13, 2014 - 10:23

    Well said ( A Firefighter) chief thought he owned the place seeing how you have to get a key from him and permission to use the facility, it's only been a couple weeks sense chief Norman has taken over the role and there is difference already there are a lot of happy firemen in the conception Bay Area in general ..

    • Another Firefighter
      February 15, 2014 - 20:05

      I thought it was just us who had trouble getting the key to the regional grounds! There are a lot of happy firefighters in CBN area. Best of luck Chief Norman.

  • A Firefighter
    February 12, 2014 - 21:33

    all the Fire Dept. in Conception Bay had a hand in Building of the Conception Bay North Training Center not just Bay Roberts Fire Dept./ Chief Russell Thank you!!!!!