The Newport Police Department is investigating a group of volunteer firefighters for allegedly detonating explosive devices at the Newport Fire Department over the weekend.
“It appears that there was some sort of a setting off of a small explosive,” Newport Town Manager Dick Casey said, adding that there were no injuries or property damage.
Newport Police Chief Jeff Clark said that the investigation began Wednesday. He said the focus was on more than one explosion that occurred between June 21 and Sunday.
“Our detective is still conducting interviews,” Clark said. “Until all those interviews are completed and we have a case filed to review in its entirety we’re not ready to release any information on those that may or may not have been involved and exactly what the device was.”
Casey said that there are 40 members of the Newport Fire Department. Clark said those believed to be involved were volunteers, not paid employees.
Clark said no 911 calls reporting the explosions were made.
Tina Reynolds, who lives at 120 Howard Blvd. across the street from the fire department, remembers hearing at least one of the explosions on Saturday.
“I did hear an explosion,” Reynolds said. “It just sounded like a loud noise, like somebody just fired off a gun, but it was louder than a gun.”
Reynolds’ daughter-in-law, Alicia Eubanks, also a resident at the home, heard an explosion around 3 p.m. Saturday.
“My kids and I were inside watching a movie,” Eubanks said. “It kind of sounded like a gun but not a gun. It was louder than that.
“I had gone outside to see if anything was going on. I looked over at the fire department. The doors were open. There were some people outside in the front. I remember there were a bunch of people outside on the bench that’s right outside the fire department and they had also been messing with the intercom that they have over there, just talking on it and being obnoxious.
“There were people inside that were talking on the intercom thing to the people outside making stupid noises and things. They were just being obnoxious because usually they only use that intercom to call someone that’s across the fire station if they want them to come into the office of something, and basically it was like kids playing with a microphone.”
The acting fire chief, Kane Johnson, could not be reached for comment. Johnson took over the department in April from Drummond Figg, who was fired, according to Casey. Casey said there was no connection between the dismissal of the former chief and the explosives case.
“We feel like we are handling this appropriately,” Clark said. “Everyone involved is cooperating with the investigation and as soon as we finalize all the interviews we will try to release a statement as to what exactly took place as much as we can.”