PARIS — The town’s deputy fire chief has been placed on administrative leave pending the completion of an investigation by the District Attorney’s Office and a third-party report on an out-of-control fire, officials said Wednesday. 

Fire Chief Brad Frost said Wednesday that he notified Willie Buffington in person that his employment status with the town had been changed. The decision was effective Tuesday, May 19, and will last until both investigations are completed. 

Buffington, who has served on the department for over 50 years, will not be allowed to go out on calls or conduct other related activities. 

Frost said he concluded the move was the right one to clear the air and “operate above the board.”

“It’s natural to do it, it’s fair to the town,” Frost said. 

Buffington’s pay will not be affected because he is already owed a stipend, which he receives twice a year.

Last week, crews from two towns extinguished a fire Buffington started to burn a barn he’d demolished. The fire spread to a nearby unoccupied house on 363 High St. Buffington also owned, gutting it.

The fire, which briefly knocked out phone lines to three towns, appeared to have been set too close to the house.

According to the Maine Forest Service website, burning permits require a 50-foot setback between the fire and any structure, a plumbed hose and buckets of water. Also, fires cannot be set between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. unless it’s raining.

Buffington previously said the distance between the pile of barn rubble and the house was about 10 feet.

After he concluded an initial report, Frost said he turned over the investigation to local and state authorities.

Interim Town Manager and Police Chief Michael Madden said he contacted outside agencies to have an independent third-party review of the incident, though as yet none has been selected. 

On Monday, the Oxford County District Attorney’s Office said it’s investigating the fire to see if it violated any laws. 

Frost said Buffington received a summons from the Maine Forest Service, though investigator Brad Bucknell could not be reached to confirm that and the charge. 

The issue of whether the town or Buffington will cover the $1,300 firefighting cost for wages and materials has been tied to the investigation, Frost said. 

Frost said there will not be any temporary promotions to fill the void. 

“It will be a burden, but we can adapt,” he said. 

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