Social Media Claims Three More Fire Service Cyber-Casualties

Sometimes I feel like I can write the headlines and the story before they occur, and just fill in the details later. Three firefighters in two states are facing disciplinary actions following offensive protest-related social media posts.

In Minnesota, two members of the Sauk Rapids Fire Department were dismissed after posting “troubling comments” about the protests following George Floyd’s death. The details of what was posted has not been published, but according to a city press release “Threats of violence and racism are unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the City of Sauk Rapids.” The two firefighters were part-time paid-on call. More on the story.

In New York, the fire chief of the Washington Heights Fire Department has been removed from duty while the department investigates allegations that he referred to protesters as “pavement apes” on Facebook. The post has local officials demanding he be disciplined. According to a press release from the fire department:

  • The Washington Heights Fire Department is aware of the statement made by Chuck Healy on his personal Facebook Page.
  • Mr. Healy has been removed from duty at this time while the department is reviewing all of our disciplinary options with legal counsel. 
  • While we understand the public outrage at this comment, we must ask the community not to obstruct fire department operations in any way. 
  • The Fire Department’s volunteers must remain able to respond safely and quickly to emergencies in our community. 
  • We ask you to support our mission of the saving lives and property of all of our citizens.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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