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MFD Chief Mark Rohlfing speaks out on suspensions of five firefighters

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing is speaking out, after handing down suspensions against five firefighters accused of being involved in the vandalism of Milwaukee Fire Department's Engine 32, that occurred this past fall.

In this case, nine firefighters were immediately placed on suspension during an investigation.

Eventually, five firefighters were suspended, two probationary firefighters were fired, and two firefighters will keep their jobs as long as they complete a special program. Two other firefighters allegedly involved have retired.

The five suspended have been suspended for 30 work shifts, and will be on probation for a year following their return from suspension. Two of the five have been demoted.

Additionally, each much undergo mandatory training.

The five firefighters who were suspended on February 14th include:

  • Timothy Kaye (Lieutenant): Suspended for 30 work shifts, 20 if he completes a stipulated program. Additionally, no special duty for 81 days, and no trades may be initiated for 90 days. Kaye must receive mandatory training and will be on probation for 12 months upon return from his suspension.
  • Daniel Krause (Lieutenant): Suspended for 30 work shifts. No special duty for 162 days, and no trades may be initiated for 180 days. Krause is a lieutenant — and has been demoted to the rank of firefighter. He is to receive mandatory training, and will be on probation for 12 months upon return from his suspension.
  • Justin Lemke (Heavy Equipment Operator): Suspended for 30 work shifts. No special duty for 162 days, and no trades may be initiated for 180 days. Lemke is a Heavy Equipment Operator, and has been demoted. He is to receive mandatory training and will be on probation for 12 months upon return from his suspension.
  • Mark Pegelow (Heavy Equipment Operator): Suspended for 30 work shifts, 20 if he completes a stipulated program. Pegelow is a Heavy Equipment Operator. No special duty for 80 days, and no trades may be initiated for 90 days. He is to receive mandatory training and he will also be on probation for 12 months upon return from his suspension.
  • Ryan Trapp (Firefighter): Suspended for 30 work shifts, 20 if he completes a stipulated program. No special duty for 81 days, and no trades may be initiated for 90 days. He is to receive mandatory training, and will be on probation for 12 months upon return from his suspension.

Nathan Fager and Joey Siegert are the probationary firefighters who were fired in this case. They presented a petition containing 1,253 signatures before Milwaukee’s Fire and Police Commission in an effort to get their jobs back — an effort that ultimately failed.

David Krebsbach and Robert Rutley are the two that will keep their jobs. They were suspended for five days without pay but only had to serve two – as long as they completed a special program. One admitted to hanging up inappropriate signs, and the other to bringing pornography to the station.

The complaints against the five firefighters suspended in this case detail what the Fire and Police Commission says occurred inside Engine 32, located on North 30th Street in Milwaukee.

The complaints indicate Engine House 32 was inspected by MFD staff on the morning of September 29th, due to concern that the firehouse may not have been left in good order — and may have been damaged by personnel that were permanently transferred from the Engine House to other work locations as of that date.

The complaints say MFD Command Staff documented “extensive evidence of vandalism and disorder in the firehouse that morning.”

"It's disheartening. It really is. I do think the punishments are very much appropriate. It gives us all a black eye when you`ve got 900 men and women who`ve given their lives to this career and they do a great job and we have a handful of angry individuals and a couple who literally retired the next day that you know drag us through this mud. When we see this, it does make us step back a little and say okay, what do you need to bring forward, what training do we need to do?" Rohlfing said.

On Thursday, February 20th, the suspensions leveled against the five firefighters were read before the Fire and Police Commission.

Rohlfing says he is planning department-wide training.

"We are a professional organization and we`re gonna continue to move forward and we`re gonna continue to be better," Rohlfing said.

The vandalism is outlined in the complaints as follows:

  • Firehouse items, kitchen items, five-gallon buckets of flour and cornmeal and dish/silverware drainers found thrown over the barrier wall behind the Engine House. They were reportedly found down the hill, lying next to railroad tracks.
  • Damage to a door frame leading into the Engine House’s office
  • A dead mouse taped to the inside of a locker, with a note saying: “We know you are the rat.”
  • Damaged drywall in a hallway attributed to bowling in the hallway.
  • A broken baseboard drywall in the dormitory.
  • Feces found in a floor drain.
  • Pornographic magazines placed throughout the Engine House.
  • A cupcake found smashed in between ceiling tiles, which evidence suggests was placed there to encourage mouse and cockroach infestation to the ceiling.
  • Multiple potato chip type bags found above ceiling tiles, containing mouse droppings, which evidence suggests was committed to encourage mouse and cockroach infestation to the ceiling.
  • A damaged security screen to a Company Officer’s office.
  • A liquid substance which smelled like and appeared to be urine found on the floor of four lockers.
  • Vinegar found in ice cube trays in the Engine House’s freezer.
  • Surround sound wires leading to the TV/entertainment system sliced.
  • A headboard in the dormitory was broken.
  • Multiple dents were found in the engine overhead door not previously reported to maintenance.
  • Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing’s name was found defaced on an official city of Milwaukee map located in the Engine House.
  • HVAC dormitory duct work was vandalized.
  • Multiple plates were found shattered in the kitchen.
  • Placement of two notes defining the word “scab” in the Engine House quarters, which further evidence suggests the departing crew was attempting to harass or insult the newly-assigned crew.
  • Weight-lifting equipment removed from the basement.
  • A large kitchen colander found melted and damaged.
  • Common kitchen cleaning supplies (soap, sponges, towels, etc.) found to be absent.
  • Kitchen cabinets found to be missing basic supplies.
  • A flat-panel TV missing from the truck office, and a refrigerator donated to a neighboring family.
  • Kitchen dish towels piled up outside – exposed to the weather and not properly laundered.
  • A container of sour milk left in the kitchen cabinet.
  • The locker room was found to be unreasonably unclean and unkempt.

The complaints against the five suspended firefighters detail the reasoning for their suspensions:

  • Timothy Kaye: Kaye was the Lieutenant on “Red Shift” from Saturday, September 28th through Sunday, September 29th and “failed to prevent, properly discipline, or report the above-described vandalism and disorder that occurred during the shift.”
  • Daniel Krause: Krause was the senior officer in charge of the quarters of Engine 32 and “failed to prevent, properly discipline, or report the above-described vandalism and disorder that occurred during the shift.”
  • Justin Lemke: Lemke, a Heavy Equipment Operator was said to be present at Engine 32 in an off-duty capacity on Saturday and Sunday (September 28th and 29th) and “failed to prevent or report the vandalism and disorder that occurred during the shift.” Additionally, the complaint against him says Lemke admitted to breaking plates, and was in the fire station off-duty and unsupervised for an extended period of time.
  • Mark Pegelow: Pegelow, a Heavy Equipment Operator, “failed to prevent, properly discipline, or report the above-described vandalism and disorder that occurred during the shift.”
  • Ryan Trapp: Trapp, a firefighter, in the complaint against him is said to have “failed to prevent, properly discipline, or report the above-described vandalism and disorder that occurred during the shift.”

Rohlfing says he has spoken with all five men suspended, and says they understand now the gravity of what they did.

They each have the option of appealing their suspensions, but Rohlfing says he doesn't expect that to happen.

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