NEW YORK -- Two veteran firefighters were suspended without pay yesterday after they admitted having had sex with a woman in their Bronx firehouse while on duty, Fire Department officials said.
Nine other firefighters and three supervisors were assigned to administrative duties as a result of the matter.
The suspensions came in the latest and perhaps most lurid controversy in a department that has seemed to be lurching from scandal to scandal in recent months. The two firefighters acknowledged having sex with the 34-year-old woman when she visited one of them early yesterday at the firehouse on Walton Avenue in University Heights, police and fire officials said.
The woman, who had met one of the firefighters on the Internet, returned to her Staten Island home about 6 a.m., called for an ambulance and said she had been raped, the authorities said. The accusation transformed the two-story tan-and-brown firehouse - known as Animal House - into a crime scene: the street outside was choked with marked and unmarked police vehicles and blocked off with yellow tape, and a steady procession of detectives and police brass shuttled in and out of the building throughout the day.
Faced with the woman's accusation, the firefighters said the sex had been consensual, officials said. Extensive interviews with the men and with the woman, who suffers from bipolar disorder, led the police, investigators from the city's Department of Investigation and prosecutors to determine that no criminal charges would be brought, a law enforcement official said.
Department officials last night were investigating whether two other firefighters may have had sex with the woman as well.
Even though they do not face criminal charges, the two suspended firefighters, Tony Deluca, 34, and Christian Waugh, 30, face departmental charges for admitting the woman to the firehouse and having sex with her there, and their supervisors - including a battalion chief - could face discipline and transfer, Fire Department officials said.
Over the last year, the department has been besieged by a string of embarrassing - and at times criminal - encounters ranging from a drunken firehouse brawl on Staten Island on New Year's Eve, when a firefighter was bashed in the head with a metal folding chair, to a series of high-profile cases involving on-duty drinking and drug use. The episodes prompted Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta to issue a tough policy on alcohol and to institute random drug testing, which began this week.
Within the department, even those who noted that the firefighters had claimed the sex was consensual said they were nonetheless astounded by the poor judgment and reckless behavior exhibited by the men.
In addition to suspending Firefighter Deluca - who had developed an Internet relationship with the woman and met her in person for the first time early yesterday - and Firefighter Waugh, Commissioner Scoppetta took the house's engine and truck out of service for most of the day so the investigation could proceed, officials said.
He also reassigned to administrative duties the other nine firefighters who work on the engine and truck, as well as the lieutenant, captain and battalion chief. During the day, their firefighting duties were handled by firehouses nearby.
In a statement, the Fire Department said its Bureau of Investigations and Trials, along with fire marshals, were working with the Police Department and the city's Department of Investigation to investigate the accusations.
"These are very serious allegations," the statement said.
The encounter began after the woman, who had also been in contact with Firefighter Deluca by telephone, called him late Thursday or early Friday and told him she was lonely, one official who had been briefed on the investigation said. Firefighter Deluca told her to come to the firehouse and let her in through a side door, the official said.
The two then had sex in the firehouse, and then Firefighter Waugh had sex with the woman, the official said. She returned to Staten Island, and called 911 for an ambulance, the official said. While she told investigators she had had consensual sex with Firefighter Deluca, she said that she had then been raped by three other firefighters in succession, the official said.
But the interviews and investigation led police officials and prosecutors to conclude that no crime had occurred, one law enforcement official said. "They did extensive interviews with prosecutors and they can't see criminality," the official said. "It just doesn't match up."
The official said the police would assist the administrative investigation by the Department of Investigation and internal Fire Department investigators. Yesterday, everyone in the firehouse at the time of the incident was tested for drugs, but the results were not available last night, an official said.
Lawyers for Firefighter Deluca and Firefighter Waugh, who have been in the department for nearly eight and nine years respectively, could not be reached for comment last night. Both men are married, a department official said.
Neither man has a record of serious disciplinary infractions, a department official said. One of them, Firefighter Waugh, comes from what was described as a solid firefighting family. His father helped carry the body of Father Mychal Judge, the department's chaplain, from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
A spokesman for the Uniformed Firefighters Association, Tom Butler, said the union would have no comment. "This is an investigation of personal conduct, and individuals are being represented by their own attorneys," he said.
From The New York Times on the Web (c) The New York Times Company. Reprinted with Permission.