A majority of Thorndike Fire Department members stormed out of a Board of Selectmen's meeting Wednesday night, effectively shutting down department operations and resigning.

Earlier in the meeting, firefighter Shawn Bristol presented selectmen with a prepared letter defending the actions of embattled Assistant Fire Chief George Russell.

Bristol’s actions were in response to a letter addressed to the town dated Jan. 23 from four emergency services organizations in Waldo County describing a lack of professionalism and safety concerns from the department and singling out Russell.

Russell came under scrutiny in 2015, when he was charged with using a fire department credit card for roughly $5,000 in personal expenses. He pleaded guilty and ultimately the charge was dismissed.

Exchanges between members of the Fire Department and selectmen grew increasingly heated; at one point Second Selectman Bob Carter shouted to firefighter Timothy Veazie, “We have responded; please sit down and be quiet.”

April Turner, a member of Freedom Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary, attempted to broker a deal to reinstate Russell if selectmen received supporting letters from the same agencies that expressed concerns about the state of the department.

“We cannot afford to lose Thorndike Fire Company,” she said. “We would lose a big asset because of one person.” She said losing the fire department would be a great “disservice” to the community.

Veazie told selectmen: “What we require is George to be on our crew.”

“We can’t do that,” First Selectman Larry Ward said. “The town of Thorndike is up against the eight ball.

“The entities in the letter have a lot of teeth.”

Ward said one thing that struck him about the letter from the four agencies was it came from firefighters.

“It just doesn’t happen — you all have the same agenda. It must have been pretty bad for this to come forward,” he said.

Russell spoke briefly later in the meeting and said he offered to step down.

Ward said, “You’ve been singled out — I’ve enjoyed working with you.”

The room suddenly erupted as most of the members of Thorndike Fire Department present stood up and walked out of the room.

Someone whispered, “They just resigned.”

Bangor Daily News reported, “In a resignation letter handed to the (Board of Selectmen), firefighters wrote that they were pulling the fire company’s personnel from the fire department immediately because of unsafe equipment that the town of Thorndike (selectmen) refuse to replace, putting not only the firefighters’ lives at risk but the public as well.”

Waldo County Sheriff Jeffrey Trafton, a resident of the town, said, “Apparently we have no fire department in Thorndike. I don’t think it’s working ….

“For the purpose of the fire department in Thorndike, selectmen should have the power to appoint,” he added, suggesting the town draw up an article for the annual town meeting, set to take place in a few weeks.

“All is not lost tonight,” Trafton said. “It’s time to reorganize.”