Firefighters at Engine Company 257 in Brooklyn, New York, have accused a probationary colleague of shirking his duties and blamed his employment on FDNY diversity policies.
Michael D. Johnson, 41, who is black, has allegedly failed to enter burning buildings when ordered to do so, earning him the nickname “Tragic Johnson,” according to the New York Post.
On April 2, Johnson’s captain feared he’d gone missing in a three-alarm blaze and radioed “mayday,” indicating he might be in danger. Johnson had been assigned backup duty and required to help carry a water hose into the two-story building. It turns out Johnson had been at the curb and told his colleagues he was refilling his air tank, although sources said he never entered the building and shouldn’t have been low on oxygen.
“It can’t be ignored,” a source told the New York Post. “If they ignore it, some civilian will end up injured or killed, or a fireman will be injured or killed.”
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Another source added: “Everyone is concerned about working with him. We’re concerned for our safety, but we’re also concerned for his safety.”
Johnson joined the FDNY after a federal judge ruled he, along with 281 other applicants, be hired to increase minorities in the department. Though sources have said the other "priority hires" have proven exemplary firefighters, Johnson took three attempts to pass the Fire Academy.
“He’s a nice enough person, but he’s certainly lacking in the ability to put himself in harm’s way,” a source said.
After the incident on April 2, Johnson was ordered to attend retraining, FDNY confirmed. Johnson, a decorated former EMT, reportedly wanted to leave the firehouse, but he was ordered to return.
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“The department seems to not want to give a f**k about any of this because they want to fill their quota,” a source said.
Johnson refused to discuss his performance. “The captain never said anything to me,” he said. "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."
FDNY spokesman Jim Long also refused to comment on Johnson’s record. “Probationary firefighters receiving additional training, or going back for retraining, is a normal practice in the department,” he said.
Johnson, who is on probation for another two weeks, is still under evaluation.