Police & Fire

Monson loses fire chief and 4 firefighters

By Valerie Royzman, Staff Writer

MONSON — A Piscataquis County town is trying to determine the future of its fire department after its chief and four firefighters resigned last week.

Monson’s fire chief, Ryan Laplante, resigned April 25 during an executive session of the Monson Select Board. He then spoke publicly with firefighters at the department and made inaccurate statements, which may have prompted other members to resign, according to an April 26 statement from the Select Board.

Four firefighters resigned April 25 in addition to Laplante, and others are evaluating whether they want to remain with the department, Alaina Zelkan, the town’s interim town manager, said on Wednesday, May 1. The board appointed Terry Gaudet as interim chief on April 30.

It was not immediately clear how many people remain at the department, but the town has enough people to staff it and respond to calls, said Sue Chase, chair of the board. Before last week’s resignations, 15 or 16 firefighters worked for the department, Zelkan said.

Laplante is the second town leader to resign in the past couple months. William MacDonald resigned as town manager effective March 19 after starting in January 2023, Chase said.

The board has “solid confidence” in the department going forward, and it will work with the manager and Gaudet to meet the needs of the communities that it serves, she said. Monson’s department covers Blanchard, Elliotsville, Willimantic, and Shirley.

Chase noted that town officials met earlier this week with the Piscataquis County Fire Chiefs’ Association for guidance on how to move forward. The board does not have any immediate plans to advertise the fire chief position and wants to allow Gaudet the chance to “get things rolling and back to normal,” she said.

The board said it issued its April 26 statement to correct “misinformation” shared by Laplante. He claimed that the board talked about other members of the department during its executive session and that the town had canceled the delivery of a fire truck, according to the statement.

Both of those things are false, the board said. Laplante declined to comment May 1.

During a special town meeting in February, residents voted to spend $350,000 on a used fire truck, with $75,000 to come from a reserve account dedicated to fire equipment, Chase said.

The replacement fire truck is in Alabama, and it will likely be delivered in July. Because of its size, the department is working to find a way to adjust its doors so the truck will fit, she said.

“We are going through with purchasing a new fire truck,” she said. “That was never in question.”

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