The Salt Lake City Fire Department has launched an investigation into the conduct of firefighters who apparently doused two sleeping transients with water from a fire hose near a downtown restaurant last week.
The incident was witnessed about 11 p.m. May 28 by Holladay residents Dan and Joanie Liston, who were headed home after a dinner at Mulboon's."We found out (Monday) through the news media and took immediate action," Salt Lake Fire Capt. Devin Villa said. "We started an internal investigation and found out that it is true, but we believe it was an isolated incident."
So far, the fire department investigation indicates that the fire engine involved - Engine 170 - was a ladder truck with no water tank and that a hand-held fire extinguisher was actually used.
Villa confirmed that Salt Lake Fire Capt. Shawn Graves is one of those under investigation but declined to say if it extends to the other three firefighters also on the engine at the time.
He also declined any comment on Graves' tenure with the department.
"His length of service is irrelevant," Villa said. "We do not condone this behavior in any manner. It is not a department practice or a city practice, and it wouldn't be one. This is horrible and we consider it disrespectful."
Pending the outcome of the internal investigation, those involved will be disciplined, Villa said. He would not say if any of the fire-fighters had been placed on administrative leave during the investigation.
Liston and his wife saw the engine pull over to the curb and turn a fire hose on two men, who were asleep in front of McDonald's near the 500 South I-15 onramp. Roused from their sleep, the two men got up and wandered away.
The Listons followed the engine from 500 South and 200 East to 300 South, where the engine pulled over again. Dan Liston rolled down his window to talk to the driver, who refused to give his name.
"You could tell they really didn't want to talk about it. Their demeanor was sort of matter of fact. Like, this is the way it is, don't bother us," he said.
The unidentified firefighter told Liston they had sprayed the transients because fire crews are frequently dispatched on 911 calls about people with possible injuries that turn out to be just transients asleep in public places. Moving them along might reduce the number of calls for that night, Liston said the driver told him.
"Couldn't they just go up and talk to them?" Liston said. "I mean, but for the grace of God, that could be any of us."
Not normally one to mix in other's business, Liston said he couldn't just turn away from what he saw Thursday night.
"To me, it's black and white. It's just not right."