Vermont Ex-Firefighter Charged In Fake 911 Calls

STOWE, Vt. (AP) -- A former volunteer firefighter is facing charges that he made a series of false 911 calls so he could watch fire engines race toward fabricated emergencies.

Donald Griggs, 19, has pleaded not guilty to charges of false public alarms and false reports to law-enforcement officials. He was released on conditions following his arraignment last week in Vermont District Court in Barre, said Evelyn Bailey, executive director of the Vermont Enhanced 911 Board.

``It puts everybody in jeopardy,'' said Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux, who helped investigate the calls. ``We're pretty busy as it is. To chase around false calls makes things even tighter.''

Court documents say Griggs used a cell phone he found in a Morrisville parking lot to call the emergency phone number about 15 times between Nov. 21 and Dec. 8. The phone was not associated with a wireless-service provider, so the only number it could call was 911, Bailey said.

Typically when dispatchers receive emergency calls, identifying information such as a phone number and name are displayed on their computer screens. When cell phones have no service provider, the only information dispatchers see is a serial number for the phone, Bailey said. That makes prank callers such as Griggs hard to track, she said.

Griggs' calls included one in which he reported a three-car crash in Johnson that left people trapped and vehicles on fire; and a report that a dairy farm in Stowe was engulfed in flames, according to court papers. At least twice Griggs hid and watched the emergency response his calls generated, according to court papers.

Police were able to track Griggs because they recognized his voice, Marcoux said.

The documents say Griggs told police he made the calls because ``he is infatuated with fire trucks'' and had felt like ``a big dog'' while responding to emergencies with the North Hyde Park Fire Department.