FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA (WUSA9) - There are new complaints about the Fairfax County Fire Department, one year after a female paramedic committed suicide after being bullied online. An anonymous letter alleges nothing has changed and points to alleged comments from department leaders.
At the Fairfax Fire and Rescue Training Academy, a class of 35 new recruits are learning how to be firefighters. On April 21, their loved ones were invited to a Family Night.
A letter to Fire Chief Richard Bower, apparently from a family member at that event, said they were "shocked and appalled" at "callous comments" from a fire captain. He’s accused of talking about behavior in fire stations that some would call "hazing" or "bullying," that "millennials have thin skin," but "boys will be boys."
That fire captain has told co-workers he doesn't remember saying those things. Several people who know him told WUSA9 reporter Peggy Fox it's not in his character. Since the letter is anonymous, we don't know if it's real, but the fire chief is taking it seriously.
"We're looking into the matter. If it's substantiated, we'll take corrective action to make sure it never ever happens again," said Chief Bowers.
He points to changes the department has made since paramedic Nicole Mittendorff killed herself in Shenandoah National Park last year. She had been bullied online by people who seemed to be firefighters.
The fire chief says they never identified who those bullies were, but one department head was forced out...and a co-worker of Mittendorf was fired.
Fairfax Fire Chief Bowers says he'd like to meet with the person who wrote the letter. He emphasizes, there will be no retaliation for coming forward.
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