A fire marshal in Cromwell is on unpaid suspension after allegedly showing up to a fire scene impaired on Halloween night, according to reports from the town fire and police departments.
Fire broke out at 134 Coles Road around 10:30 p.m. on Halloween. While crews beat down the flames, Fire Marshal Todd Gagnon, a 23-year veteran of the department, was called to the scene to investigate. He showed up 75 minutes later, according to the fire district’s investigation report obtained by the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters.
According to a report from Fire Chief Stephen Pendl, Gagnon called dispatch four times to verify the address of the fire scene. Police and fire officials said Gagnon appeared to be impaired when he arrived.
“I observed Fire Marshal Gagnon with red blood shot eyes, slurred delayed speech, and he was swaying back and forth,” Cromwell police Sgt. Steven D. Penn wrote in a memo to the police captain on Nov. 3.
In a statement included in the report, Gagnon told investigators he had been taking medication to help him sleep following a recent injury. Gagnon said the call from the fire department woke him from a deep sleep and he “went into auto-mode, going through a mental checklist” as he got ready to go.
It wasn’t until he arrived at the scene that Gagnon noticed the effects of the medication, according to his statement.
Although he later said alcohol was not a factor, Gagnon allegedly told a colleague he had been drinking earlier that evening, according to documents from the investigation.
"I may have had too much wine at dinner last night," Gagnon told Fire Marshal DJ Zordan the next morning, according to Zordan's report. "I learned something last night. When you mix [redacted] and wine, you get a good buzz."
Cromwell Fire District President Julius Neto, who drove Gagnon home from the scene, reported smelling alcohol. Penn said he did not "smell any alcoholic type beverage emanating from his person" but added that he believed Gagnon was "intoxicated," according to the documents.
Gagnon told Cromwell Fire District Executive Director Michael Dagostino on the phone that weekend that he had only taken the medication he was prescribed and there was "no alcohol involved," Dagostino told investigators in the report.
Gagnon was placed on paid administrative leave the morning after the fire.
Cromwell Fire District Executive Director Michael Dagostino told Gagnon he had “violated the Cromwell Fire District’s Alcohol and Drug Policy as well as the Rules of Conduct” and informed him of his 15-day suspension in a letter dated Nov. 7.
According to the letter, Gagnon is also prohibited from working “on call” weekends for six months and must leave his work vehicle back at the fire department at the end of each day. His suspension ends Dec. 3.
The Cromwell Fire District declined to comment further on the matter. The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters have reached out to Gagnon but have not heard back.