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Philadelphia firefighter suspended, accused of setting fire to ladder truck. Reports indicate his lieutenant told him to stop playing with fire.

The scene of the crime from Google Maps Street View.
The scene of the crime from Google Maps Street View.

A firefighter in Philadelphia has been suspended after being accused of setting fire to the rig where he is assigned. The fire was quickly extinguished by other firefighters. Philadelphia Fire Department Commissioner Lloyd Ayres says fire investigators are looking into Paul Prendergas’ actions on Tuesday morning.

Excerpts from an article by Kitty Capparella at

“I can guarantee the proper discipline will be handed out. This is a very serious infraction,” Ayres added. “We don’t take this lightly.

The commissioner said Prendergas was “engaged in horseplay,” allegedly lighting paper and watching it flame out inside the firehouse on Arch Street near 4th where he worked on Ladder 2.

His supervisor, Lt. Alfonso Mesete, ordered Prendergas, who is in his 20s, to stop playing with fire.

But Prendergas allegedly lit another paper and threw it into the fire truck’s engine compartment, which is normally locked, setting ablaze the motor which operates the truck and powers the firefighting equipment.

Mesete filed a report about the incident, which prompted the Visual Communications Unit to photograph the damage and a Fire Marshal to interview witnesses.

“I’m waiting for all the reports, including the cost of repairs to the truck before taking action,” said Ayres. Mechanics replaced a few parts to make the $800,000 fire truck operable.

Prendergas, who is known by officials as a “problem child,” has faced discipline in the past year, prompting his transfer from Engine 71 at Cottman Avenue and Loretto Street in the Northeast, to Ladder 2, said sources.

Called a “legacy” member of the department, Prendergas comes from a family of firefighters, said one source. “He should know better. What if Ladder 2 was called into service and couldn’t be dispatched because they were fighting a fire on their own truck?”

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