Friday, December 12, 2008

Fireman charged with false 911 call

A firefighter who was thought to have been angry about department budget cuts and station closings was arrested for falsely reporting a fire at a public school on City Island in the Bronx, New York. Nicholas Vrettos, who joined the department in 2002, is charged with a felony count of falsely reporting an incident.

Fire officials said that on Dec. 4, a fire was reported — but not found — in the cafeteria of a school. The 911 call followed an announcement by Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta that Ladder Company 53, where Vrettos worked, would be partly closed at night.

The Department of Investigation, which was notified by the Fire Department that a firefighter was implicated in the false alarm, traced the call to a business that Vrettos operates. He faces up to seven years in prison.

“Calling in a false alarm to 911 is not the way to protest a budget cut that prompted a partial closure,” Rose Hearn, commissioner of the Department of Investigation, said. “The timing of the calls suggests a deliberate attempt to tax the Fire Department’s ability to respond.” Hearn said that it “defies belief” that a firefighter would risk the safety of fellow firefighters and the public by calling in a nonexistent emergency.

Scoppetta called the acts “unforgivable.” He said, “Anyone who shows such blatant disregard for our firefighters’ time and the safety of the public should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

A firefighters’ union spokesman said that because Vrettos was not on duty at the time of the call, he would not be represented by a union lawyer. (info from the New York Times)

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