The following article is from the Lewiston Sun Journal
Paris, Maine — March 3, 2011 — A former fire chief from West Ossipee, N.H., will be arraigned in Oxford County Superior Court next month on a charge of arson. Bradley W. Eldridge, 51, who was removed as fire chief in March 2010 for an unrelated matter, will be arraigned April 13 in the Paris courthouse.
According to Superior Court records, Eldridge “caused or maintained a fire or explosion on the property of William Day Jr. with the intent to damage or destroy that property.” Authorities say he set fire to a barn in Porter on Christmas Eve. A grand jury indictment was handed up Feb. 16. Eldridge, who resides at 15 Route 1 in West Ossipee, said Friday that he had no comment on the case.
Day told the Sun Journal on Friday that a fire broke out in the middle of his barn at 28 Porterfield Road in Porter on Dec. 24 and was quickly extinguished by a neighbor and his son. Volunteers from the Porter Fire Department were also on scene. No one was injured and the animals in the barn survived. Day said he knows what happened but declined to comment, on the advice of “authorities,” whom he did not identify.
Eldridge joined the department in the mid-1970s and was appointed chief of the 11-member call department in the West Ossipee precinct by a three-member West Ossipee Fire Precinct Commission in 1988.
This is not the first controversy he’s faced in West Ossipee, according to newspaper reports. The Carroll County Independent reported in its April 7, 2011, issue that the fire commissioners unanimously voted to remove Eldridge “for cause” at a March 28, 2011, executive session. At that time, the commission chairman told the Carroll County Independent that the removal did not mean “there was any criminal activity at all.”
The Conway Daily News reported in March 2011 that fire commissioners were having a hard time finding Eldridge after he returned keys to the command vehicle and the building following a March 7 meeting. The Daily News reported that the fire commissioners wanted the chief to answer questions, including what happened to one of the department’s fire engines that disappeared in February 2011.
According to newspaper reports, Eldridge said he sent the fire engine to South Carolina to be sold on the Internet. The fire commissioners called in law enforcement to confirm the truck’s whereabouts. West Ossipee Fire Chief Carl Huddleston, who was appointed acting chief on March 7, 2011, and permanent chief on Jan. 17, told the Sun Journal on Friday that the disappearance of Engine 3 had caused concern.
“Questions were raised by our taxpayers as to where it went,” he said.
An investigation revealed the engine was driven to a used fire apparatus dealer in South Carolina for sale. On Dec. 30, 2011, the West Ossipee precinct transferred the fire engine’s title to the dealer. The precinct will receive no money for the transaction, Huddleston said. Whether the former chief would have profited from the transaction was unclear Friday. Huddleston declined to hazard a guess.
Eldridge’s annual salary of $60,000 was slashed to $48,000 in January 2011 at the annual precinct meeting, two months before he was fired. Huddleston said since that time, voters have decided to eliminate the full-time fire chief’s position. The chief’s administrative budget is set at $19,500 for this year. He is paid an hourly rate for 15 hours of administrative work and per fire call.
After leaving the West Ossipee Fire Department, Eldridge became a member of the Madison (N.H.) Fire Department, Huddleston said.