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Former Bridger Canyon fire chief, firefighter resignations official

Published On: May 21 2013 07:29:53 PM MDT   Updated On: May 21 2013 09:45:58 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

As of noon on Tuesday, former Bridger Canyon Fire Chief Dan Astrom's resignation was official. He turned his pager in, and boxed up personal items.

"I feel bad for the residents," Astrom said. "It's not something we wanted to do, but enough's enough."

He and several firefighters announced their plans to leave on Monday. They said there's been a huge rift between the department and board of trustees, and it reached a breaking point.

"We just can't function effectively anymore," said former firefighter Ryan Finn.

The firefighters said the board wasn't respecting them, and felt the disagreement got in the way of the department's normal functions.

And if the chief left, they said they would too. Issues arose over the board's consideration of allowing alcohol in the community room. The board eventually decided against it.

But firefighters say trustees suddenly decided to review the chief, and they felt it was uncalled for.

"They tore our family apart," said former firefighter and EMT Sara Martin. "We're a family here, and they tore us apart."

They said the damage is irreparable.

Newly elected trustee Dennis Guentzel, who is now the acting chief until they find a new one, said he tried to resolve the situation. He's disappointed by all the resignations.

"I'm not going to sit in judgment of their action," he said. "I just think there still was a better way of resolving this."

Guentzel said they aren't sure just how many firefighters have resigned at this point, but by Wednesday night, they expect 16 people will be gone. The department will be left with just under 10 firefighters.

He said since they're losing more than half the department, neighboring fire districts have agreed to provide mutual aid until Bridger Canyon Fire gets back on its feet.

"We're just going to try and rebuild the department as best we can," he said.