Allegations that the Thorndike Fire Department leadership is unprofessional and has endangered the lives of firefighters from other communities are having an incendiary effect on the small town and its volunteer-run department.
The allegations came in the form of a Jan. 23 letter sent by four Waldo County emergency response officials to the Thorndike Select Board and town residents. It detailed safety concerns and leadership problems with George Russell, the town’s 33-year-old former fire chief who stepped down to the position of assistant fire chief after he admitted stealing more than $5,000 from the fire department’s coffers in 2014.
The officials also said that Thorndike’s mutual aid partner communities want to dissolve that relationship because of their concerns.
The letter wasn’t widely released until last weekend. But once it was, it blindsided town firefighters.
Russell has resigned, and Fire Chief Bill Isbister, who has held that position only since the beginning of the year, said that he and most of the rest of the firefighters are planning to quit, too, unless two demands are met.