Unity Fire Chief Blaine Parsons stands next to a tanker truck Wednesday after returning to the fire station from a call involving a 4-year-old boy whose foot was stuck in a boat dock. Selectmen are reviewing the Fire Department’s procedures following recent complaints about town fire trucks allegedly being misused. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

UNITY — Town officials are reviewing Fire Department operations and the conduct of the fire chief following complaints of misused fire trucks, most recently when a request by selectmen was ignored and two of the town’s fire trucks were included in the Fourth of July parade in a neighboring community.

In another case, Fire Chief Blaine Parsons acknowledged a Fire Department tanker truck was used to fill the swimming pool at his house, according to an audio recording from a July 6 meeting of the Board of Selectmen.

Selectmen at that meeting reminded Parsons he was asked previously not to bring the Fire Department’s ladder truck to Brooks for the town’s parade, and instead to bring one of the department’s smaller trucks.

Selectmen said much of the Fire Department’s budget had already been spent, and they were concerned the high cost of fuel, particularly to fill the ladder truck for travel to another community, would further eat into the budget.

Parsons had apparently agreed to that request by selectmen, but said July 6 the department is proud of its fleet and wants to display it. He also said the parade in Brooks was an opportunity for firefighters to train on the ladder truck and learn to operate it.

“We were disappointed that he went against our wishes,” Selectman Penny Sampson said Wednesday.


Parsons declined to comment when reached by telephone Wednesday.

With the skyrocketing cost of fuel, it can cost about $200 to fill the tank of a fire truck, according to an official with the Maine State Federation of Firefighters.

The discussion between selectmen and Parsons amounted to a personnel matter and was meant to be held in closed session, but Parsons requested it be held in public session.

Unity Selectman Penny Sampson stands Wednesday next to the Fire Department’s ladder truck at the fire station. Sampson and the town’s two other selectmen are reviewing the Fire Department’s procedures following recent complaints about town fire trucks allegedly being misused. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Parsons told selectmen a town policy requires firefighters spend time driving and training on each of the town’s fire trucks. It makes no difference, he said, if the training is completed during a parade or on a random night on the back roads of Unity, but firefighters use less fuel when a truck is moving slowly or idling along a parade route.

Sampson asked what would have happened if there were a fire in Unity while the ladder truck were in Brooks. Parsons said the truck, which is fairly new, was not yet in service because more time was needed for firefighter training.

Selectman Tim Parker Jr. told Parsons the decision to bring two trucks to the Brooks parade was an act of insubordination.


Two other complaints about fire operations were submitted over the past week or two, and Sampson said Wednesday they were “brought up due to citizen concerns.”

“Otherwise,” she said, “we probably wouldn’t have even known.”

A person reported seeing the tanker truck being used to fill a swimming pool in Unity Plantation, something that should not be done for insurance reasons, Sampson said.

Parsons said during the meeting that three firefighters were using the truck at that time for training. But when asked whose pool it was, Parsons said: “Mine. I’ll be honest.”

In another case, a person reported seeing the ladder truck being used at a residence on Depot Street. There was concern the truck was being used to conduct work on an upper portion of the house.

Parsons said he was out of town that day, but two firefighters were using the truck for training. Sampson said one of the firefighters owns the house.

“We’re not supposed to use public money for private (purposes),” Sampson said during the July 6 meeting. “So we have some concerns, and it doesn’t look good to the citizens of the town when they see the ladder truck doing work at somebody’s house or filling up the fire chief’s pool.”

Sampson said Wednesday she could not say whether the town would take action against Parsons. For now, she said, selectmen plan to discuss implementing a policy on the use of fire trucks at parades.

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