Last month, Maine experienced a four-alarm fire which blazed across over 40 acres of grass and marsh and took over 100 firefighters to quell and saw hundreds evacuated from the area. Investigators are now revealing with a heavy heart that the destructive fire was not only deliberately set, but was done so by one of their own, a former firefighter who was fire chief for two years.
The arrest of Old Orchard Beach Fire Chief Ricky Plummer, who was the Marlborough fire chief in 2010 and 2011, occurred at about 2 a.m. Saturday morning. He has held the position of fire chief in Old Orchard Beach since 2014. Plummer will be facing arson charges in connection with the four-alarm April 15 fire that burned through 42 acres at the Jones Creek Marsh in Old Orchard Beach. The southern Maine coastal town where the fire chief worked has a population of about 8,600. The four-alarm fire was extinguished without injuries, but came within a 100 feet of a condominium complex which had to be evacuated at the time.
When Plummer was battling the fire he spoke to media outlets and described the four-alarm fire as being so powerful that the firefighters were nearly forced to withdraw from the area.
“Flames were 20 to 30 feet high, just a wall of fire and heat. It could have been a lot worse. It could have burned this condominium down.”
TheMetroWest Daily News stated that it was only a day ago that about a dozen investigators from both Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Maine Forest Service served a warrant which allowed them to raid and seize Plummer’s computer from his fire station, personal vehicle, as well as confiscate his cellphone, and it seems that they walked away with what must have been some very damning evidence.
Investigators interviewed Plummer and placed him under arrest after consultation with the York County District Attorney’s Office. The 59-year-old man was taken to the Cumberland County Jail in Portland and had his bail set by a judge at $10,000. Ricky Plummer is scheduled to have his first appearance in court as early as next week.
The local paper, Portland Press Herald, wrote that Plummer has been a firefighter since 1974 and has worked as a firefighter or in fire departments in a number of counties across the country including Arundel; Biddeford; Gray; Marlborough, Massachusetts; Standish, North Berwick; Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Cocoa, Florida.
Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, has stated that other fires which occurred while Ricky Plummer was fire chief in other communities will also be investigated.
Joe Thornton, the vice chairman of the Old Orchard Beach town councilors, has stated that along with the criminal issues that Plummer’s arrest brought they are also faced with a personnel issue as Plummer has been relieved of his fire chief duties and placed on administrative leave. For the moment town manager Larry Mead has taken over the vacant position and will command the fire department staff and direct its day-to-day operations. Mead has issued a statement that the fire department will continue to operate normally.
“I want to reassure the residents of Old Orchard Beach that the public safety needs of the town will continue to be fully served. They [firefighters] will continue to serve and respond around the clock seven days a week to provide fire and rescue services to the people of Old Orchard Beach.”
McCausland stated that he “can’t remember a time when a chief of a major fire department has been charged with arson.” Though a National Volunteer Firefighter Council report showed that annually about 100 firefighters are arrested on arson charges they tend to be volunteer firefighters.
[Photo Courtesy of Cumberland County, Maine]