Mint Hill fire still under investigation

A fire that occurred last night in the 10000 block of Little Creek Road is still under investigation by authorities.

The home was unoccupied at the time of the fire, and was called in by the neighbors. Assistant Chief Moore, of Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department, said the damage to the home was minimal, and estimated the cost of damage at less than $15,000.

The cause of the fire, which started underneath the house, is still unknown.

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Former Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Dept. Chief under investigation

By Amanda Waters
amandawaters@minthilltimes.com

The Town of Mint Hill received a federal subpoena May 24 and is cooperating with federal agencies in an investigation of recently resigned Fire Operations Director, Jeremy Russell.  “We are absolutely not under investigation as a town,” said Town Manager Brian Welch.  “The town is actively cooperating with them in their review.”
The Board of Commissioners passed a resolution May 24 authorizing the town staff, town attorney and members of the board “to meet with investigating agents and attorneys for the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the United States Attorneys Office.” According to the resolution they could inform investigating agents and attorneys of  “(1) the suspension, disciplinary action and later resignation of Mint Hill Fire Operations Director Jeremy Russell, (2) the reasons for and circumstances surrounding such personnel action and events, (3) the Town’s findings regarding Mr. Russell’s activities engaged in during his prior employment with the Town and as a volunteer with the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department, and (4) any additional information requested by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and/or the United States Attorneys Office in connection with their investigation of Mr. Russell and/or any related individuals and entities.”
Russell was hired as a paramedic June 13, 1994.  The town promoted him to Fire/EMS Operations Director April 1998.  He received a disciplinary suspension April 13, 2012, and resigned the same day. The Board of Commissioners held several closed sessions last month regarding an unspecified personnel matter.
The board passed a resolution April 12 “to inform the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department Board Chair and other members of the Board of Directors of the suspension and other disciplinary action involving Mint Hill Fire Chief Jeremy Russell and the reasons for such personnel action.”
The board also passed a resolution May 2 to make the MHVFD Board of Directors and counsel for the MHVFD aware of “the Town’s findings regarding Mr. Russell’s activities engaged in during his prior employment with the Town and as a volunteer with the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department.”
The FBI declined comment on its involvement with the investigation of Russell.
When asked what Russell is being investigated for, Welch said he was unable to comment and directed questions to the U.S. Attorneys Office, which also declined to comment.
Chairman of the MHVFD Board of Directors, Jerry Mullis, said “Our mission here at the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department is to be responsive to the investigation, assist in any way we can, and go on in our mission of providing fire protection and emergency medical and transport to the people in our fire district.”
The fire department held a board meeting June 4, ending with a two-hour closed session where they discussed personnel and insurance matters and the investigation.
The fire department has experienced several personnel changes since Russell resigned.  John Phillips is the new fire chief, Tommy Moore is the assistant chief in charge of fire operations, David Leath is the assistant chief in charge of EMS operations, and the chief introduced three newly-hired firemen at last night’s meeting.  There were changes in the board, too, as Henry Allison stepped down as the vice chair and member of the board.

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