The sub zero temperatures could not keep some 200 people from showing their support for the former members of the Spaniard’s Bay Volunteer Fire Department early Thursday evening.
Standing in front of the town’s municipal centre, the people - many of them wives, sons, girlfriends and children of firefighters - held up signs and briefly chanted “SBFD” to a chorus of honking horns from cars that passed by.
There was plenty of support for the former firemen of the embattled Conception Bay North community. A Facebook group was started by Kate Davis, the daughter of the department’s assistant chief.
Labelled “Support The Spaniard’s Bay Fire Department,” more than 900 people had joined the group that played a key part in organizing the rally.
Just two days earlier some 20 members of the fire department handed in their pagers during a regular council meeting on Tuesday in support of former councillor Sheri Collins.
What came next was an Internet and media firestorm that has brought to light allegations of sexual harassment and a mismanagement of the department from firefighter Brenda Seymour.
An instance where a short clip of an adult film was shown at the conclusion of training seminar in April 2014 in which Seymour attended is one of a number of issues that have caused tension in the community for some time.
The situation has been brewing since November when three of Spaniard’s Bay’s seven-member council attempted to remove former fire chief Victor Hiscock via a pair of motions that were defeated. It’s put the spotlight squarely on the town and left people questioning what the next step is.
In the interim, the Bay Roberts Volunteer Fire Department is handling any emergency calls in the community.
On this evening, fire department backers were quick to tell media that “the truth will come out” and that Seymour was leveling “false allegations” at members of the fire department. A petition was passed around and some hastily grabbed for pens to sign their names to it.
After a half hour of waiting in the cold, the firefighters made their way down New Harbour Road and onto the parking lot of the municipal centre. Some of them wore their department colours and all waved to their throng of supporters.
They were greeted as heroes as some onlookers hugged each other as the members got closer. They were proud of what they were accomplishing this evening. They felt proud of their firefighters for taking a stand.
Hiscock briefly spoke to the crowd and neither member of the department granted any of the interviews requested of them as they went back the way they came. Some offered parting waves and brief smiles to their supporters.
“We thank you for the support,” Hiscock offered in his first public remarks since news broke Tuesday.
Just as quick as people assembled to throw their support behind the resigned firefighters, people have been just as quick to stand behind Seymour. Women’s groups have come forward to stand beside her and family members have called her to check on things.
No one is quite sure what the next step is.
However, one thing is for sure.
This issue has divided Spaniard’s Bay and there is no clear plan to rectify the situation.