By: Megan Lacelle
Maple Creek Fire Department did not respond to a fire call on Saturday, April 30 due to ongoing tensions over a mutual aid agreement between the RM of Maple Creek and the Nekaneet First Nation.
A fire destroyed a home on the Nekaneet First Nation on Saturday, no injuries were reported but the building was a total loss, said local RCMP. Maple Creek Fire Department received the call but could not bring their trucks onto the Nekaneet land.
“The Maple Creek Fire Department operates the trucks for the RM of Maple Creek,” said Fire Chief Keith Stork. “The RM of Maple Creek does not have the mutual aid agreement with the Nekaneet Band.”
Stork said the agreement would allow crews to go on Nekaneet land but without the agreement they could be liable.
“We have a letter from the RM stating we do not take the trucks onto Nekaneet land. Basically if something bad happens whoever is operating the truck gets sued,” Stork said. “The RM would get sued [and] the guys operating the trucks would be sued because there’s no agreement in place.”
Jack Zieffle, a councillor on the RM of Maple Creek as well as the fire co-ordinator, said the RM has sent a letter trying to reach an agreement to the Nekaneet for more than 20 years with no response. This was the first year they didn’t send a letter.
“We do have an extreme amount of First Nation’s land in the RM of Maple Creek, which does make a concern for a lot of local land owners because if you get a fire [on Nekaneet land] you’re not allowed to go into it until it exits that land before you can fight that fire,” Zieffle said.
Stork said the RM of Maple Creek has mutual aid agreements with the neighbouring RMs of Piapot, Reno and Big Stick, as well as Cypress Hills park.
Issues surrounding mutual aid agreements came to light February of last year in northern Saskatchewan when Loon Lake Fire Department didn’t respond to a house fire at the Makwa Sahgaiehchan First Nation after payments weren’t made on the agreement. Two children died in that fire.
In this case no agreement has ever been made.
“The guys, obviously, they want to go out and help, right? But on the other hand, as [Fire] Chief, I can’t put them in a situation where they’re going to get in trouble for it or sued,” Stork said.
Nekaneet First Nation decline to comment.