Mountain View Fire and Rescue volunteer resigns following social media comments inquiry

A Mountain View Fire and Rescue volunteer firefighter was accused last week of using racial slurs and encouraging violence on social media shortly after the 2016 presidential election. Submitted image

A Mountain View Fire and Rescue volunteer firefighter has resigned from the department following allegations of racist comments on social media.

The department received an email from an anonymous source on Sunday, Aug. 13.

“I’ve come across a Mountain View firefighter… who has been flagrantly using the ‘n-word’ on social media and threatens ‘lynching,’” the person wrote. “I’ve provided a screenshot of his inappropriate public behavior on social media and included some pictures of the firefighter so you can identify this man.”

The email was also sent to the Courier-Herald.

Upon receiving the email, Mountain View opened an investigation into the comments, which the emailer said were made sometime shortly after the 2016 presidential election.

“Upon further investigation by the department, it appeared that there could be some association with the positing and the person contained in the photo,” Fire Chief Greg Smith said in a press release on Aug. 17, adding that while the photos identified a volunteer firefighter, the name of the Facebook profile did not match the name of the firefighter. “The district placed the volunteer on suspension and the volunteer was informed that they were not to participate in any fire department activities nor be present at any of the district’s stations during this investigation.”

The volunteer resigned his position the day after the investigation began, and the department suspended any further investigation into the incident.

“I take this very, very seriously,” Smith said in an interview before the investigation was dropped. “When something like this happens, it hurts all firefighters. We will not put up with it, if it is in fact true.”

“Mountain View Fire has policies in place related to social media use and provides training to new and current volunteers and employees,” Smith said in the official press release. “Mountain View Fire does not tolerate any action by its members that does not reflect the values of the department and its members.”

The identity of the volunteer firefighter was not released, because the investigation into the allegations was not completed.

The unidentified emailer said he did not want to be identified.

“Having seen the violent language from [the firefighter], I didn’t want to have to deal with any reprisals,” he wrote.

He said he didn’t know the firefighter personally, but has mutual contacts on Facebook.

As to why he waited 10 months to email Mountain View about the comments, the emailer said the events in Charlottesville — where 19 people were injured and one killed during a white nationalist rally on Aug. 12 — “compelled me to finally speak up and do something about it.”

The Facebook profile used to make the comments was deleted shortly after the investigation began.