Two months after the entire Newburgh Volunteer Fire Department resigned over a dispute with the town’s selectmen, the crew’s membership level is back to a level that allows the department to respond to fire, medical and other emergency calls.
“It’s a work in progress, I guess. We’re moving forward. The department is moving in a positive direction,” said Ralph Shaw, who became Newburgh’s fire chief in May after town selectmen rejected a list of demands from 11 former firefighters — including the rehiring of former Chief Glen Williamson.
Shaw said Sunday that the department currently has eight members, three of whom were among the 11 who quit in May. He said that the department has been able to tackle numerous calls, thanks in part to help from the town’s mutual aid partners in Carmel, Hampden, Hermon and Dixmont.
Shaw, a married Hampden father of three who is also the Hermon Public Works supervisor and the assistant chief for Carmel Fire and Rescue Department, was among a handful of candidates who interviewed for the chief’s job. Shaw said earlier that he plans to keep all three jobs.
The town’s three selectmen met on May 15 to vote whether to reinstate Williamson, but rejected a list of three demands from firefighters, saying they “were limiting in having a workable relationship with the chief,” which resulted in the mass resignation.
The panel then endorsed Town Manager Cynthia Grant’s pick of Shaw as the new chief.
The firefighters had demanded that Williamson be reinstated, that he get his job back without having to apply for it, and that he be allowed to have a liaison, or witness, whenever he met with selectmen or the town manager, former firefighter Scott Reglin, who spoke for the department at the meeting and was among those who quit in protest.
Williamson said in May that he earned $4,000 a year leading the volunteer department of 11 and had been working without pay as acting chief for the last eight months.
Shaw said his grandfather served 30 years as a firefighter in Corinna, and he started his career in Plymouth directly after high school. He worked his way up the ranks and was assistant chief for Plymouth for seven years and spent five as chief. He said he also worked for Newport, where he was a training officer, and has been the assistant chief in Carmel for about three years.
Shaw said the department is still recruiting and that anyone interested in joining should contact the town office.