Investigation launched into racist online posts about new fire chief

By FireRescue1 Staff

ANNANDALE, Va. — An investigation has been launched into anonymous, racist comments posted online about the county’s incoming fire chief.

WUSA9 reported that John Butler, Fairfax County Fire Department’s incoming chief, will be the first black fire chief of the department when he takes over on Sept. 9.

Butler’s hiring has been met with racism in the form of anonymous comments on the website “Fairfax Underground,” and fire officials are now looking into the comments to make sure fire department employees are not behind them.

Interim Chief John Caussin has urged all staff members to come forward with any information regarding the comments, and Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill has stated that any department employee found to be participating in the racism will be severely punished.

“Racist, sexist, harassing or retaliatory comments like those on Fairfax Underground are reprehensible,” Hill said. “The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors supports a zero tolerance approach to this type of conduct within all facets of Fairfax County Government. At this time, we don’t know who is responsible for the posts, but an investigation is underway. Any employee found to have participated in posting these comments will be subject to severe disciplinary action.”

Fairfax County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Union President Ron Kuley called the comments “filthy” and “vulgar.”

“We don't know who these people are,” he said. “What we do know if that it's filth, vile, they're cowards hiding behind a keyboard.”

In reference to the anonymous, racist comments aimed at Fairfax County’s incoming chief, the International Association of Fire Chiefs released a statement Monday that reminded members of the organization’s Human Dignity statement and recommended all fire departments adopt a zero-tolerance policy.

“Fairfax Underground” also came under fire two years ago when it was discovered that firefighter Nicole Mittendorf, who took her own life, was the subject of harassment and bullying on the site by commenters who appeared to be connected with the fire department, WTOP reported.

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