10 Canadian Firefighters Suspended For Improper Conduct

WINNIPEG (CP) -- Eight Winnipeg firefighters and two paramedics have been suspended indefinitely following allegations that they socialized inside a station with strippers in various stages of undress.

Robin Alford, a spokesman for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, said assistant chief Andy Burgess suspended everyone who was working at the No. 4 station the night of the alleged incident for ``improper conduct,'' including the captain.

Alford would confirm neither the details of the incident, nor the source of the complaint.

He said only that it allegedly happened earlier this summer and was brought to light a few days ago.

Alex Forrest, president of United Firefighters of Winnipeg, said the fire department has tarnished the reputations of the workers because it didn't investigate thoroughly before suspending them.

Forrest said the women weren't strippers but friends of a firefighter's nephew who visited the station to look at one of the fire trucks.

``There was nothing done that was inappropriate. There was no nudity, there was no booze. Individuals may have had drinks before they came but even that isn't certain.''

One of the women was given a fire department sweatshirt to wear over her clothes, said Forrest.

``This has been blown out of proportion and that's what happens when you don't do a full investigation before you act,'' he said, adding the union will fight the suspensions, which were effective as of Saturday.

Jeremy Kozielec, 24, said he was with four women who stopped at the fire station in late July to say hello to his uncle, a firefighter.

Kozielec said he was shocked to hear his uncle and the others working that night have been suspended.

``No one from the chief's office has contacted me,'' Kozielec said Sunday. ``We just stopped to talk. Some of the firefighters were tossing Frisbees around. They gave the girls T-shirts and they put them on over their own shirts. No one took their clothes off.''

Alford confirmed that investigators have not yet talked to everyone involved, but said they hope to have their interviews completed in the next few days.

Once the investigation is complete, administration will either allow the staff back to work or further define their punishments, said Alford.

That punishment could include suspensions, fines or even termination, he said.

Three of the firefighters, including the captain, were suspended without pay, said Forrest.

The other seven people were suspended with pay.

The firefighters' union will conduct its own investigation, said Forrest.

``The more we delve into the situation, the more we believe the administration has crossed the line,'' he said. ``It doesn't seem at the worst extreme that it was worth this.''