One town in Maine has lost every member of its fire department this week, leaving residents in Newburgh to wonder if bitter small town politics is compromising their safety.
The firefighters quit on Monday, after town officials refused to re-instate ex-Fire Chief Glen Williamson.
“Glen Williamson is the best man for the job,” said volunteer firefighter of four years, Scott Reglin.
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He said Williamson had ongoing issues with Town Manager Cynthia Grant. Williamson verbally resigned from chief, but later asked for the job back. He continued to work as chief without pay.
Firefighters gathered hundreds of petition signatures, demanding town officials give Williamson the job back, but they refused.
That’s when the rest of the department banded together, and walked out to take a stand.
“It was a tough decision, because I love my community and I love the job,” said Reglin. “I hate the fact of leaving the town unprotected.”
In a statement, the Board of Selectmen said a new chief has been hired, and the town of Newburgh will have to rely on aid from neighboring towns in the event of an emergency.
“The fire department has to be here,” said Newburgh resident Elizabeth Depoy. She said Newburgh firefighters saved her property in 1992, when a massive house fire nearly destroyed everything she owned at the Chapter Three Farm.
“They were here in a flash,” she said. “Had we had to call other departments, we would have lost everything.”
She thinks town officials need to put their differences aside, for the greater good of the community.
“Let people bury their arguments, and get over it,” she said.
Town Manager Cynthia Grant did not respond to repeated requests for comment.