April 03, 2020
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Lebanon fire chief and his deputy placed on leave amid probe

The town of Lebanon has placed both its fire chief and deputy fire chief on paid leave.

The town of Lebanon has placed both its fire chief and deputy fire chief on paid leave.

That comes amid an investigation into the department by the Lebanon Select Board prompted by complaints from inside the fire station.

“We had several formal and informal complaints, so we started looking into the fire station,” Lebanon Select Board Chair Chuck Russell said. “We had several people resign. So we knew there was an issue down here.”

Russell said Chief Steve Merrill and Deputy Chief J.T. Harmon have been placed on paid leave, but it’s not just leadership that’s in question at the department.

“What accelerated it, and how it came into the equipment in the building and everything, is someone contacted our insurance company filing a complaint about the building and the equipment,” Russell said.

Now the Select Board is having the town’s human resources department and an outside engineering firm investigate what’s going on.

In the meantime, Russell said the fire department is fully staffed and ready to respond to calls.

“It’s business as usual down here, we’ve had a couple of new hires with guys that have experience,” Russell said. “We have a very experienced federal firefighter, who is an officer here, leading the department for the next week or two until we get an interim chief in. The morale is high here and all the shifts are covered.”

The town has asked nearby departments from Rochester and Sanford to be available to help if needed.

“The town is safe,” Russell said.

The Select Board expects the investigation to last between six to eight weeks.

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