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Firefighters say bad haircut investigation a ‘witch hunt’. Whistle blown by citizen on Orange County, CA probie hazing.

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It was apparently a customer of an In-N-Out Burger who blew the whistle on the hazing of probationary firefighters in Orange County, California. According to investigative reporter Tony Saavedra with the Orange County Register, the customer witnessed a half-dozen firefighters in uniform with some unusual haircuts that included reverse Mohawks, clumps of hair missing and a brightly painted scalp. They had arrived at the fast food joint in fire department vehicles and were assigned to Station 22 in Laguna Hills.

That complaint to Orange County Fire Authority Chief Keith Richter prompted an investigation that included consultation with the District Attorney’s Office. The prosecutors declined to file assault charges in connection with two of the firefighters who were held down for their haircuts, but in the end, days off were given to 13 firefighters, six of them probies, for unprofessional conduct.

A December survey of firefighters by the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association that Saavedra wrote about in an article last week, has firefighters describing the investigation as a “witch hunt”. Here’s more from today’s article:

Firefighters in the union survey chalked the hazing up to normal camaraderie.

“What could have been handled by a simple, stern warning, turned into the biggest morale-busting waste of money I have ever seen,” said one firefighter. ”

Said another, “Similar events have happened hundreds of times.”

“We are taking appropriate measures to make sure nothing like this ever happens again at the OCFA.” (Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion)

As for the survey, which Battalion Chief Concepcion says the administration takes seriously, firefighters were quite critical of the department’s leadership in general, comparing the agency to the Titanic and accusing management of lying to the media as a way of responding to controversies. 

Read entire article about hazing incident

Read article about the survey

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Comments - Add Yours

  • WillMega06

    Man it’s bad when the public snitches! What’s this world coming to, the good days are rapidly becoming a thing of the past!

  • Fire21

    I’ve never been a fan of hazing. To me, it builds embarrassment rather than camaraderie. Just because it was done in the past is no reason to continue doing it today. We so often speak in favor of maintaining human dignity for our customers, yet turn around and treat our brother and sister co-workers like objects of entertainment.

    I don’t think Orange County should enforce any disciplinary measures on these firefighters, unless such hazing is already prohibited. If not, then write new regs about it and move on. It’s shouldn’t be a major item on the dept’s agenda. Just stop the practice and get on with business. JMHO.

    • The Slat Man

      Couldn’t agree with you more Fire21… simple harmless pranks or name-calling around the station are one thing, but the reality is that things like this (physical assaults, forced defacement/marking – even temporary) are just demonstrations of “power”/”control” and have absolutely nothing to do with truly building camaraderie.

      It is ridiculous that it seems like there is this atmosphere of “one-upsmanship” when it comes to hazing… the career crew at a company that staged a phony shooting at the station, the volunteers in New York that essentially abducted and assaulted a 16 year old junior member… when does it end?

  • http://burnedoutmedic.com burned-out medic

    that’s not what i saw on the academy on fox reality! hee hee.

  • Left Coast

    The Fire Service has become just like an office job, if you wouldn’t do it in a world of cubicles then you can’t do it in the Firehouse

  • WAHEID

    I spent 20 years in the USN. I’ve never been a fan of hazing in the USN or in the fire service. It has nothing to do with camaraderie; it has everything to do with some nitwits exercising their power over a person who has less power. Generally, the people who engage in hazing have “issues” and hazing allows them to work out some of these issues. Officers who tolerate hazing need to exercise leadership.

  • Capt Dick

    Some form of hazing is traditional and acceptable to a point . Altering a probies appearance is frat house antics and the officer(s) involved should be busted back. I’m sure OC has a grooming policy and eccentric hair is probably part of it.

  • Pingback: Best of the Rest – Nuts, Bees, Brotherhood, Hazing, Detroit, NFE, NFFF, and More via The Fire Critic! | The Fire Critic()

  • Legeros

    Thank goodness for hazing. Saves leadership the trouble of assessing personal performance based on reaction and acclamation to non-manufactured stressors in the workplace. Sarcasm off.

    Information sharing is better than ever these days. If you don’t want your activities (or antics) in the firehouse shared outside the firehouse, don’t take them outside the firehouse.

  • Anonymous

    If we look back in time, there have been many groups,organizations and even the military that have had some sort of “acceptance” fun with rookies by their peers. It really is about being accepted by your peers.

    To say its a “power trip” is ridiculous! Maybe in some organizations it is a powertrip, but for the fire service its nothing more than saying welcome to our family!

    I will agree that taking them out to get some burgers at midnight was not the smartest thing. These guys did take it too far. But,aside from going out in public, I disagree thats it builds embarrasment.

    I personally dont have a problem with having fun, alittle food/water fight, etc. But we are firemen. We have a tendency to fuk good things up. And thats where we get outselves in trouble. If we could keep these FUN TIMES to some mellow fun, there wouldnt be policies against it.

    Its sad and unfortunate that we have taken things alittle to far that depts have to write new policies preventing
    “hazing”.

    I believe that most that complain about alittle are the ones that are uptight, have no self confidence, are loners and just barely made the cut. Oh, and probably looking to enhance their retirement accounts like the LAFD firefighter did several yrs ago.

    OC has had a hazing policy in place for yrs. I would honestly be shocked if most public agencies in america didnt have some sort of hazing policy in todays climate.

    Again, let me re-iterate. FIREMEN CAN SCREW GOOD THINGS UP!! And its because of incidents like this and others that have gone too far that we are no longer allow it to happen.