VANDENBROEK-KAUKAUNA, Wis.-- More resignations by firefighters followed a hostile meeting Wednesday night with the Vandenbroek Town Board.
Before the meeting, twelve firefighters already resigned, including the chief and an assistant chief. More were expected to quit on Monday but the fire department instead gave the Vandenbroek and Town of Kaukauna a deadline of November 10th for changes to be made to the towns' joint fire commission.
But news Wednesday night of a letter the town board plans to send to residents sent many more firefighters walking. The letter will be mailed first thing Thursday morning. Firefighters were so outraged over what the letter says, a majority of them resigned.
The fire department needs at least 15 people to respond to an emergency. It no longer has that many.
The resignations came during and after the meeting as Vandenbroek town supervisors voted 2-1 to send what firefighters consider an inflammatory letter criticizing the department.
The letter goes into detail about the board's efforts over the last 18 months in what it calls "an attempt to restore accountability and oversight to the fire department."
It accuses the department of attempting to give itself a raise, and it states that residents here pay more for fire protection than those who live in surrounding towns and villages.
It also calls the ongoing threat to walk out an intimidation tactic.
"They have so much hatred. We were so close. I work my *** off to have a fire department, and they can't look beyond their hatred," former assistant fire chief Gary Van Vonderen said.
So now if a fire breaks out, will there be anyone at the Kaukauna/Vandenbroek fire station? "I'm not going to, no," Van Vonderen said. "I'm not going to call my squad. Tell them we don't have enough, don't bother."
It's a situation the town chair says he's been preparing for.
"We got all the mutual aid around us," Peter Van Groll assured. "Everything is set because they threatened to walk Monday. This is the third time they tried this already, you know?"
Firefighters said before they would stay on the job until November 10 in hopes the fire commission would be restructured. Now Van Groll's not sure this issue will be resolved.
"I don't know. Unless they come back and apologize," Van Groll said. "It ain't our fault; they're the ones that did it."
"It's a sad day for the Town of Vandenbroek/Kaukauna, I will tell you that," Van Vonderen said.
Two special meetings are scheduled for next week, on November 8, in both the Town of Vandenbroek and the Town of Kaukauna. That might be the next opportunity for this issue to be resolved.
Until then, when residents dial 911 it will be up to the Outagamie County dispatch center to decide which neighboring fire department will respond.
Republished with permission of WBAY-TV.