VANCOUVER – The Bowen Island fire chief has taken a voluntary leave after his 26 volunteers threatened to walk off the job over an ongoing workplace dispute.

Volunteers gave local officials a deadline of 4 p.m. Thursday to get rid of Chief Derek Dickson, who has only been on the job for three months, or deal with a mass resignation.

At the 11th hour, the Bowen Island municipality announced that, as a compromise, Dickson has "offered to take vacation time, effective immediately, in order to encourage a way forward" with his department.

"My first priority is the safety of our firefighters and the residents of our community. I will be taking a step back from operations for a time," the chief said in a statement. "But I look forward to engaging further in this process with the membership in a facilitated environment."

As a result, firefighters have agreed to remain on the job under the leadership of deputy chief Aaron Hanen.

The source of the fire department's tension remains unclear; no one has commented on the record about what's made Dickson so unpopular, though it's clear morale has plummeted since he took the job.

While the temperature has cooled somewhat in light of Dickson's leave, volunteers told CTV News they still plan to walk out if he returns to the job.

In the meantime, a meeting has been scheduled for Friday with the province's fire commissioner. B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth urged the parties involved to "work together to ensure that a resolution to this issue is found."

"The best way to do that is by people sitting and working these things out," he said.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's St. John Alexander