fire fighter charged with arson in coastal brush fire

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A large fire that scorched acres of coastal brushland in Maine may have been ignited by a firefighter charged to extinguish it, authorities said. State investigators arrested Old Orchard Beach Fire Chief Ricky Plummer in suspicion of setting 42 acres of dry brush land ablaze on April 15. The 59-year-old top firefighter was handcuffed at his mother-in-law’s home in Scarborough,

Powerful winds whipped up the arson fire, requiring more than 100 firefighters to tackle the inferno as it threatened rows of beachfront condominiums 11 miles south of Portland.

Residents were forced to evacuate as the blaze creeped within 100 feet of the housing developments, according to the Portland-based television

At the time of the fire, Plummer said the winds stoked a dangerous “wall of fire and heat” that nearly forced his firefighters to retreat.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Plummer told the Portland Press Herald as his firefighters extinguished the remaining embers. “It could have burned this condominium down.”

It’s unclear how investigators linked Plummer — a two-year veteran of the city agency — to the arson fire or what motivated the arson.

Maine State Fire Marshal investigators seized computers and Plummer’s city-owned vehicle and phone at the Old Orchard Beach Fire Department on Friday before knocking on Plummer’s stepmother’s door at 2 a.m. Saturday.

He faces one count of arson in connection to last month’s blaze.

Plummer is on administrative leave pending the results of the state investigation. Because of Plummer’s extensive career leading a scattering of fire departments in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Florida, state investigators will be examining open arson cases for additional connections back to Plummer.

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