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Twelve Montgomery volunteer firefighters suspended

Twelve volunteer firefighters from the same Rockville station have been suspended after late-night incursions this week into an apartment building's recreation room and fire department warehouse, Montgomery County officials said Friday morning.

In the latest incident, which took place shortly after midnight Friday morning, three firefighters were arrested on charges related to theft and illegal entry, said Assistant Fire Chief Scott Graham.

"When things like this happen, it's a black eye for the whole department," he said.

The names of the three charged weren't immediately released, but Rockville Police Maj. Bob Rappoport said they were all juveniles.

Graham said they tripped an alarm at a warehouse on Dover Road, prompting police from Rockville and Montgomery County to respond. Police officers recovered everything that had been taken from the scene, Graham said

"It appears that they were caught inside the building," said Rappoport. "They were stockpiling goods."

Graham dismissed the notion the firefighters could have simply needed more supplies, saying the department properly outfits all its stations.

"There's no need for anyone for any reason to break in," he said. "All they have to do is fill out the forms."

"It's not proper procurement procedure," Graham added.

Eric Bernard, president of the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department, couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

In the earlier incident, nine volunteers from the station made "an illegal entry" into an apartment complex's community room on Maryland Avenue in Rockville -- apparently to play pool or table tennis -- on Tuesday night, Graham said.

He said he didn't know if alcohol played a factor in either incident.

No charges have been filed by police in the community room incident, Rappoport said.

Graham said the station, which is staffed by volunteers and paid firefighters, has enough volunteers to maintain adequate staffing levels even after the suspensions. He said the actions of the dozen does not impugn volunteers in general. "It's a personal issue," he said.

This item has been updated since it was first published.

-- Dan Morse

By Dan Morse  |  March 12, 2010; 3:24 PM ET
Categories:  Dan Morse , Maryland , Montgomery  
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Why are my taxes (which I don't mind paying) going towards a corrupt police and fire dept.?

Posted by: jckdoors | March 12, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I thought breaking and entering was a crime? I suppose the “golden boys/girls” of public service have a different set of laws governing them. As we all know from past experience this will be swept under the rug with a slap on the wrist at best. The rest of the citizens are expected to abide by the law except of course lawmakers, police, fire and administrators. The actions of these groups speak for their groups in general as they do not purge themselves of abusers. Typical elitist group attitude, “We never do anything wrong and when we are caught we always explain our way out of it with the blessing of the county administration.” When are the citizens going to revolt against the abuse by public employees?

Posted by: OhBrother67 | March 12, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm reluctant to contribute to Fire Department solicitations -- especially from volunteers -- because of stories, confirmed or rumored, about employees having firehouse-groupie orgies, setting fires to fight, or other criminal acts.

Posted by: kinkysr | March 12, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Last year, volunteers firefighters and EMTs in Montgomery County contributed hundreds of thousands of hours (literally). In fact, across this country, over 80% of fire and rescue services are provided by volunteers in a proud tradition first established in America by Ben Franklin. Just as cops, doctors, lawyers and other professions are smeared sometimes by the actions of a few, volunteer firefighters find a small percentage of their colleagues go rogue and do incredibly stupid things. Sadly, the behavior of those few detract from the public's recognition of the heroic and valuable contributions of the many.

Posted by: MdLaw | March 12, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I think it is important to point out all of the CRIMES were commited by the VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS of ROCKVILLE VFD and not the Professional Firefighters of Montgomery County. It is a shame my donations have gone to them in the past, They certainly wont in the future. I think when the county council meets for budget talks they should talk about illiminating the Volunteers , they cost or more money that anything else ....They Have a contract and Paid staff ...there not volunteers there a bunch of kids and want abees living at a phratt house

Posted by: rockvillejohn | March 12, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Before you condemn an entire group of people based on their career field, please consider the fact that this was a small group of young men. Their behavior is inexcusable, and one would hope that the department will adequately ensure that it is appropriately punished. However, drawing a direct association between people who have chosen to serve their community in an extraordinary manner, and people who are irresponsible or foolish, points only to the ignorance of the person making such an association.

Posted by: rykeileen | March 12, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Although the comment by 'rockvillejohn' difficult to read due to typos and grammar errors, I must comment on his statement that volunteer firefighters should be eliminated. Without the volunteers, the stations would not be sufficiently staffed to fight fires and respond to other emergencies. The cost to taxpayers to staff without them would be astronomical.

Posted by: Wait-a-Minute | March 12, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I have read all of the posts thus far. As a member of the department and an active volunteer for Montgomery County for almost 9 years now, I want to point out that these are the actions of few and not the intentions of many. I know all the details of both events and though I will not go into specifics I can agree there was serious harm done to our department.

Here are some things you don't hear about

These so called "wannabees" that live in a "phratt house" pulled in literally THOUSANDS of hours during our past storms. Ensuring that every single unit (pick ups, engines, plows, etc.) made it out the door to EVERY call. Some of us went over 70 hours without sleep, and also went back to the grind of a full time job.

These so called "wannabees" that live in a "phratt house" save the tax payers millions of dollars each year by providing a service to their community. They staff stations as minimum manning to ensure all peices get out the door.

These so called "wannabees" that live in a "phratt house" go through the same training, the same standards as career firefighters. We might not get yelled at as much or put through as much "physical exertion" but we still go though it. Oh yes, I forgot, we do all of this on top of school, work, families. We take OUR extra time to take these courses and receive nothing for it. We aren't paid to go to class.

I want to make one thing very clear. I am by no means "ragging" on the career side of the department. In fact, for the most part I believe we all work together very well. Most of our paid staff are volunteers in some other region, and some of our volunteers are paid in another region. So for us to be called "wannabes" because we don't take a paycheck is somewhat sad.

Also rockvillejohn, I assume since you speak as a donator to volunteer departments you are not in fact a paid or volunteer firefighter. Which (no offense) means you know very little of the system within. I do thank you for your donations to the departments as everything helps. However, you seem to want to bring to light that the volunteers were invloved, and as this is very true, be reminded as the article talks about how it happened off duty and out of the fire station. So make sure you call to light the things paid firefighters have done. I have seen alot in 9 years. Yes, this time it was volunteers, but it isn't always us.

As a final

I personally want everyone to think about the way you view our fire departments, and remember that the actions of few do not make the group. However, they make a bad name for the group. We have diligently tried to provide the best we can for our community. The terrible judgement of some should not affect the whole, as it will not affect the service we provide, or the treatment you get when you need us.

Thank you

Posted by: RV3FD | March 12, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Juveniles? Rockville has 17-year-olds fighting fires?

It does remind me of that Simpsons episode where they became volunteer firefighters and started ripping everyone off.

Posted by: tomtildrum | March 12, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Please remember the actions were VOLUNTEERS not CAREER firefighters. Do not lump both groups in as one. Bottom line if Career firefighters broke into any building illegally they would be terminated. The volunteers that broke into the rec. room on Maryland Ave. Will be back as volunteers in 30 days, Coming to your house claiming to be a respectable member of the volunteer fire department. 30 days is a small price to pay for breaking and entering. Maybe as a tax paying citizen you should ask the leaders of Rockville Volunteer Fire Dept. why on earth would you let criminals back into the organization to respond to emergency calls. Better yet ask Eric Bernard the same question. He is never available to answer questions about the volunteers but is more than willing to give his opinion about career issues.

Posted by: fireman3403 | March 12, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

This is heartbreaking to see people making comments about a group that every night is out there saving lives. These men and women come from all walks of life and put in hundreds, and often thousands, of hours training alongside career firefighters in the same academy, taking the same classes, and doing the exact same job. THEN they give up 15, 20 or more hours every week to volunteer service to their communities. There is not another group in this country that donates as much time to the community as volunteer firefighters, EMTs and medics. Yet, here these guys are attacking them as a group.

As with every large group of people (volunteer departments provide more than 80% of fire and rescue services nationwide -- do the math, that equals to hundreds of thousands of volunteers giving tens of millions of hours every year), there will be a few bad apples and the press will heap it on when those apples rise to the surface. There is no group of organization that large, not police, not clergy, not doctors, not plumbers or electricians, who can claim that they have not had the misfortune to have a number of bad apples among them. I challenge anyone to present any credible evidence that volunteer fire companies have any higher rate of bad apples than other comparably sized groups.

Just keep in mind, that if you live almost anywhere in the country other than major municipalities, if you or a loved one is hurt and need help, chances are it will be a volunteer firefighter, EMT or paramedic who will be there to help. Even you, Rockvillejohn. Even if it were you who need help and they knew the things you said in your post, the volunteers would be there and would use their skills and training to help you without charge and without even an expectation of a "thank you."

Posted by: MdLaw | March 12, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Ok, I have done some more research, and Will admit I have no affiliation with the FD nor do I wish too. but .....from what I can tell almost all of the Fire stations in this county are fully staffed by paid guys ... so what are all of these volunteers just extra ? I dont get it ...and apparently we have volunteers that live at fire houses my tax dollars go to .... I dont get it ... Im goin to make sure everyone in my neighborhood hears about this. I will be very disapointed with the county judicial system if theses people are not prosecuted they need to be held to the same standard as everybody else ....

Posted by: rockvillejohn | March 12, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Early Feb 6, 2010 when there was approx. 30" of snow on our narrow, hilly and winding rural road, my husband and I were shocked to see an engine and ambulance from LDVFD Company 17 plowing through. I was never able to find out where they were headed, but recall hearing later about multiple incidents in the District (all career) were the fire service refused to make the effort to get down certain streets. I have no problem with the paid firefighters of Montgomery County, who seem to do a fine job, but I would never want to give up our volunteer system. We would pay much more in taxes or give up other beneficial government services if the system were abandoned.

Our volunteers, here in Laytonsville also contribute a great deal of time on fundraising activites.

Not actually Viking Rider, but Viking Rider's Wife.

Posted by: VikingRider | March 13, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse


First your research isn't fully correct. about half of the stations in the county are volunteer. In fact about 15 are OWNED by the volunteers. We pay to maintain these departments and the things that we purchase comes from our bank accounts. Other stations are staffed fully by career firefighters during the day and down staffed by the county and has volunteers make up the rest of the staffing during the night time all the way till the shift in the morning. In fact one of the departments is basiccly ALL VOLUNTEER ALL THE TIME. In regards to standards, we train the same, work more hours for nothing and save you millions. It really is sad that a few bad eggs makes people think this is all of our intentions. We strive hard to not have these things happen, but we cant make it perfect.

There are career firefighters that have been in fights, DUI's, what about the 40 y/o career firefighter that met up with a 16 year old girl with sexual intentions and was arrested for a sex offense just months ago? I dont hear complaints about sex offenders in the fire department? frankly I would worry less about my jewelry and monetary items versus the safety of my daugther or son. So like i said, there are problems everywhere. Doctors, lawyers, cops, everyone messes up. These are juvenile kids who made the BIGGEST mistake of their lives. They hopefully will learn.

Again to everyone,

This is not the standard of our departments, not the way we conduct buisness, this is a case of poor judgement, stupid decisions and things that should have never happened.

Posted by: RV3FD | March 13, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

rockville John, I'd suggest you get a hold of the facts before you "goin to make sure everyone in my neighborhood hears about this.". obviously you are less than familiar with the services that you call on for help.

fireman3403, get over it man. the volunteers you are speaking of may just be the volunteers that come and save you. When will we all realize that we are here to do the same job, just some get paid for it. Obviously you get paid for it.

For the remainder of you that want to continue to bash the entire volunteer fire service, I ask this question, do you still support your state representatives, and the federal government? We all know that there have been plenty of law breakers within these groups.

Posted by: SoMdGip | March 15, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

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