False Alarm Prank Leads to $258k Suit

The false alarm prank that cost an acting fire chief his job and led to criminal charges, has now led to a civil lawsuit.

Marilyn Garcia filed suit last month against the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts and former Acting Fire Chief William Moran for a June 15, 2011 accident that she claims was triggered by a fire truck responding to a prank false alarm. She is seeking $257,667 plus costs and attorneys fees over.

The problem began when Chief Moran was having lunch at a restaurant on June 15, 2011 and observed two on-duty firefighters enter a nearby deli. Seeing that the firefighters had a portable radio he decided to have some fun and asked dispatch to send the member’s truck on an investigation. Chief Moran and his brother with whom he was having lunch then watched out the window for the firefighters to begin running back to the station. However, the firefighters never did.

Chief Moran then instructed the deputy chief to contact the firefighters to find out why they had not responded. The firefighters told the deputy that they didn’t hear the dispatch. The deputy told the firefighters to disregard the call, but a few minutes later their apparatus arrived in the restaurant parking lot with lights and siren on to pick up them up. Chief Moran called dispatch again to cancel the run but apparently a four car accident occurred when the truck left quarters.

The complaint names both the city and Chief Moran, and lists 8 counts, including:

  1. Negligence of the City
  2. Negligence of the City in failing to Allow Safe Egress of Fire Department vehicles
  3. Negligence of the City in Failing to Maintain and Enforce Adequate Rules on Apparatus Exiting Fire Stations
  4. Negligence of the City in Failing to Train and Supervise Personnel in the Operation of Fire Apparatus
  5. Negligence of the City in Selecting Chief Moran to be Acting Fire Chief
  6. Negligence of the City in Failing to Properly Supervise and Train Firefighters
  7. Negligence of the City in Failing to Keep Firefighters at their Post within their Fire Station
  8. Negligence of Chief Moran

Here is a copy of the complaint. Garcia v Moran and City of Holyoke

On April 5, 2012 Chief Moran received a one year filing on charges related to reporting a false alarm. He agreed to perform 30 hours of community service and pay $500 in restitution. He retired in November, 2011.

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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