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Firefighters fear colleague who routinely flees fires

Posted by on May. 17, 2015 at 7:05 PM
  • 7 Replies

Mobile Photo

He’s a firefighter in name only.

Michael D. Johnson won’t fight fires. Instead he stays on the sidelines as his Engine Co. 257 colleagues rush into burning buildings, FDNY insiders told The Post.

Nicknamed “Tragic Johnson” by rank and file, he’s managed to evade the smoke and flames several times since joining the Canarsie, Brooklyn, firehouse last year, sources confirmed.

“To have a guy that you know to be afraid is not going to be there for you when you need him to be — it’s frightening,” said one FDNY source.

The latest fright unfolded April 2 at a three-alarm blaze on East 78th Street, when Johnson’s irked captain radioed a “mayday” after discovering Johnson was AWOL, sources said. He had been assigned as “backup” to the nozzle man carrying the hose into the burning two-story building.

That left just two firefighters — the first and a third — to haul the heavy hose up a long staircase and spray water on the flames.

A photo obtained by The Post shows Johnson at the curb next to a FDNY vehicle while fellow firefighters march up steps into a house engulfed in black smoke.

Johnson told his colleagues that he’d returned to the fire truck to refill his air tank, a source said.

But sources said he never entered the blaze and should not have run low on air.

“It can’t be ignored,” another department source said of the probie firefighter’s repeated absences. “If they ignore it, some civilian will end up injured or killed, or a fireman will be injured or killed
“Everyone is concerned about working with him,” said a third source. “We’re concerned for our safety, but we’re also concerned for his safety.”

But department members are afraid to openly complain or criticize Johnson, who is black, because he was hired under a court order to increase minority hiring in the FDNY.

Johnson, 41, a former city EMT who earned two medals on that job, was among 282 “priority hires” — applicants passed over in 1999 or 2000 as a result of discrimination, a federal judge ruled.

His June 2, 2014, graduation class of 286 probationary firefighters was hailed as the most diverse in FDNY history — 24 percent Hispanic, 17 percent black and with four women.

While most priority hires — including others at Engine 257 — have become outstanding firefighters, sources said, Johnson has fumbled. It took him three attempts to pass the Fire Academy, they said, and he has been sent back for retraining twice. “He’s a nice enough person, but he’s certainly lacking in the ability to put himself in harm’s way,” one source said.

The fire boss who radioed the “mayday” — a rare code used only to signal a firefighter is lost in a blaze or in distress — knew Johnson had stayed outside but wanted to document his absence on the recorded transmissions, sources said.

Shortly after the incident, a chief sent a letter to the Brooklyn division describing concerns about Johnson, a source said.

The department confirmed Saturday that the April 2 mayday resulted in an official department order to retrain Johnson.

After his weeklong retraining, a source said, Johnson indicated he didn’t want to return to the Canarsie firehouse but was ordered by department brass to do so.

“The department seems to not want to give a f–k about any of this because they want to fill their quota,” the source added.

Reached at his home on Saturday, Johnson refused to answer questions about his performance or address the complaints, saying he was not authorized by the FDNY to speak.

‘“To have a guy that you now have to be afraid is not going to be there for you when you need him to be — it’s frightening.”’
- FDNY source
Of the mayday, he said only, “The captain never said anything to me. I have to go to my station and ask them what they’re talking about. So many things could be said and not be true.”

Johnson saw his salary soar from the $44,520 he made as EMT in 2008 to $76,488 last year as a firefighter, according to See Through New York data.

Johnson would not address reports he took several days of medical leave for stress following the April 2 fire and several months medical leave after a fire in a six-story apartment building on Rockaway Parkway last July 4th weekend.

Insiders insisted they were not targeting Johnson because he was a “priority hire,” noting the Canarsie firehouse has black and Latino members and a female firefighter who are all highly regarded.

But Johnson’s advanced age as a rookie may have made it more difficult for him, sources said.

“He’s now in the position where he has to do a job that’s not meant for a 40-year-old to start,” one said. “He’s slow and he’s a danger.”

FDNY spokesman Jim Long would not discuss Johnson’s performance or record, but said, “Probationary firefighters receiving additional training, or going back for retraining, is a normal practice in the department.”

Officials noted that Johnson and other Fire Academy graduates remain under probation — and evaluation — for a year after they enter the field.

Those who do not successfully complete probation can be fired, officials said. Johnson will mark his first year as an FDNY firefighter in two weeks.



http://nypost.com/2015/05/17/firefighters-fear-for-their-lives-over-fire-fleeing-colleague/
by on May. 17, 2015 at 7:05 PM
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Replies (1-7):
Healthystart30
by Gold Member on May. 17, 2015 at 7:10 PM
1 mom liked this
Why are they blasting his name and where he works on the Internet? They can still Fire him so they should just do that.
Radarma
by Ruby Member on May. 18, 2015 at 3:54 AM
1 mom liked this

Well, he would never win on Survivor.


Thomigirl
by Platinum Member on May. 18, 2015 at 6:44 AM

"Insiders insisted they were not targeting Johnson because he was a “priority hire,” noting the Canarsie firehouse has black and Latino members and a female firefighter who are all highly regarded."

"Those who do not successfully complete probation can be fired, officials said. Johnson will mark his first year as an FDNY firefighter in two weeks."

The NY Post is notoriously racist. (just read the comment sections)...but WHY write the article? The guy will be fired in 2 weeks.

Billiejeens
by The Librarian on May. 18, 2015 at 8:55 AM

 I didn't even notice this thread until I saw your name as the last poster,

I knew immediately a black guy was in trouble.

Quoting Thomigirl:

"Insiders insisted they were not targeting Johnson because he was a “priority hire,” noting the Canarsie firehouse has black and Latino members and a female firefighter who are all highly regarded."

"Those who do not successfully complete probation can be fired, officials said. Johnson will mark his first year as an FDNY firefighter in two weeks."The NY Post is notoriously racist. (just read the comment sections)...but WHY write the article? The guy will be fired in 2 weeks.

 

Luvnlogic
by Platinum Member on May. 18, 2015 at 9:02 AM
Sounds like the dude just needs to be let go. Encouraging diversity is one thing, great. But he's been given plenty of time and opportunities to make this work. Back to your EMT job, man. You tried.
broboxer
by Platinum Member on May. 18, 2015 at 9:10 AM
1 mom liked this
This is why there should be no quotas in a public safety job. The best qualified candidates should be hired, not because of race or gender. It must be frightening and frustrating knowing there is a coward who took a spot from someone who would have their backs rather than stand on the sidelines. He should have been fired after the first offensive. The department is extremely lucky that no one has died because of the idiot.
Luvnlogic
by Platinum Member on May. 18, 2015 at 9:21 AM
1 mom liked this
As long as the requirements aren't inherently discriminatory for the sake of being so, I agree. Encouraging diversity and reaching out to minorities during recruiting efforts and such, I'm for that. Hiring unqualified people is dangerous, stupid, and should be stopped immediately.

Quoting broboxer: This is why there should be no quotas in a public safety job. The best qualified candidates should be hired, not because of race or gender. It must be frightening and frustrating knowing there is a coward who took a spot from someone who would have their backs rather than stand on the sidelines. He should have been fired after the first offensive. The department is extremely lucky that no one has died because of the idiot.
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