ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — When Orange County Fire Authority recruits showed up in uniform at a fast-food joint sporting bizarre hairdos — reverse mohawks and missing clumps of hair — a perturbed restaurant customer phoned the fire chief.
That was in April 2012. Since then the department has launched a full-on investigation into the hazing practices, according to the Orange County Register. Part of that investigation included a confidential survey of 259 union members.
Comments from the survey published by the register were largely critical of the administration. Regarding the hazing, one respondent called it a witch hunt. Another said a stern warning would have been more appropriate than full-blown investigation that was "the biggest morale-busting waste of money I have ever seen."
The six probationary firefighters and seven others were disciplined for unprofessional conduct stemming from the fast-food restaurant incident.
The paper reports that at least two of the probationary firefighters were held down as their heads were shaved. No charges were filed.
As a result, the department will no longer tolerate hazing.
"We are taking appropriate measures to make sure nothing like this ever happens again at the OCFA," Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion told the paper.
The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of FireRescue1.com or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Kevin TamblingWednesday, January 30, 2013 10:31:59 AMThought this was a professional job, not a college fraternity!
Brian ReynoldsWednesday, January 30, 2013 10:54:59 AMits funny if everyone is like hey all lets get some crazy hair cuts but to actually hold someone down I would have been furious.
E Mark BalandWednesday, January 30, 2013 12:40:00 PMEven in our "professional" Profession there are unsupervised humans in our midst!
Ian SheltonWednesday, January 30, 2013 12:45:52 PMAs a volunteer f/f in a country on the far side of the earth, I'll just remind y'all this question has been visited not all that long ago on these pages. It is about time the American brothers showed the rest of the world some real leadership in personal development and professional integrity.
Charlie DennisWednesday, January 30, 2013 1:05:43 PMHazing is simply poor leadership.
Dan HinshawWednesday, January 30, 2013 2:07:51 PMThere are other ways to build brotherhood in the firehouse. The public's perception of all public employees is a big thing and this not what you want your mom and dad to read about you in the local newspaper. Firefighters want to be in the newspaper for something they, their family and friends are proud of. I would hope that when these firefighters sons and daughters read this it would not make them proud of their fathers. Come up with something diffrerent and keep it in house guys.
Don StablerWednesday, January 30, 2013 4:06:05 PMNot a good way to portray professionalism in the public eye.
Ian SheltonWednesday, January 30, 2013 5:12:40 PM...and dare I suggest Dan, in keeping it in house, keep in mind that building the brotherhood works best when you focus on teamwork rather than pecking order. Pecking order, which is the focus of so-called hazing, exists in the world of animal behaviour and should not be practiced in civilised society.
Jon WhiskeyWednesday, January 30, 2013 6:49:51 PMThat is morale busting at its finest. What did that accomplish? No doubt, going out into public looking like an idiot is nowhere professional and unacceptable, but investigation? Of WHAT? There SHOULD be a legal charge for wasting money on DUMB shit like this. Chief:"You idiots do that in my department again, and you're gone, plain and simple". What the hell else is necessary?
Jon WhiskeyWednesday, January 30, 2013 6:57:46 PM...Hazing for MANY decades has been part of Firehouse life FOR A REASON. It's waffle eatin pussies like you that mess it up for the rest of everyone. If you want a desk job where no one is allowed to touch you, and nothing is ever supposed to happen to you, then WHY the hell would you be a part of firefighting? Now these morons went out into public and let everyone see, that IS unacceptable and bad leadership for allowing them (or making them) go out like that. It's people like you who are pussitizing our country, talking about "Everyone just be nice to eachother"...why don't you go to a place like Iraq and preach that crap over there, and see how far you get? THE WORLD ISN'T NICE...sorry to break the news to you.
Charlie DennisWednesday, January 30, 2013 7:28:14 PMHow mature. I am 3rd Generation Firefighter. I know good and well what goes on around a firehouse and the simple pranks that make it what it is. Hazing, and pranks for the Rookies are too different things. Keep your friggin panties on, a "waffle eating pussy" that "thinks the world is peace and unicorns" is the last thing I am. Grow up and check your attitude and integrity.
John McKennaWednesday, January 30, 2013 7:47:52 PMJust ridiculous. Its obvious, as we come into the height of the season, these fine young probies have prepared their "hair-do's" in crazy forms to enhance their fund raising efforts for the St Baldrick's Foundation. The AMAZING group raising millions of dollars for childhood cancer research - who by the way counts nearly 20% of their volunteer shavees FIREFIGHTERS. Leave the brothers & sisters be...and make a donation on their heads to the St Baldrick's Foundation. Firefighters Conquering Kids' Cancers!
Jon WhiskeyWednesday, January 30, 2013 7:53:02 PMWell that's a surprise. I know they are two different things. My integrity doesn't need checking, maybe my attitude does. I'm just sick and tired of EVERYTHING around being toned down for people who can't hang. Sports, career fields, even the MILITARY has gone nancy girl, and I'm tired of people changing the world the way they are. So what exactly do you think is wrong with hazing new people in the firehouse?
Ian SheltonWednesday, January 30, 2013 7:56:21 PMJon Whiskey. Hello and respectfully could I ask right up that you leave the name calling and cussing out of this forum please. If you do have personal issues Jon, I imagine if your your fire department is a good it has a counsellor or chaplain you can touch base with. If you have had experience in Iraq yourself, please reach out for help, perhaps even outside the fire department. Safety relates to operational activities and personal health and wellbeing. I notice from the starred tag that like me, you have taken a big interest in these issues. If you search back you will uncover discussion in this forum that demonstrates the link between so-called hazing/pranking and bullying. You will also uncover in such a search, advice from the most experienced firefighters that its time such practices were forgiven, left behind and that new objective approaches to teambuilding be made part of the firefighting culture. I wish you and every member of Tonopah fire department well.
Charlie DennisWednesday, January 30, 2013 7:59:06 PMIt's just that Brother, I see a difference in Hazing and Pranking. Maybe I should have explained my comment further. You know man, stuff can just be taken too far. I checked out your profile, we are actually probably very close in opinions on things. I appreciate your service in the Military, my old man was USAF too. My only regret of my career was not following that lineage, but hey young and dumb. I did get to start with the fire service in my very early twenties though.
Jon WhiskeyWednesday, January 30, 2013 9:54:08 PMWell I agree with that too, things CAN be taken too far. I don't know if those guys had to go out into public like that or if they were just dumb enough to, but that IS an example of going too far. One should NEVER go out into public and do something to degrade his/her house or service. I do have to disagree though on hazing. Hazing is important in our career field for a few reasons. The first one is it's a big reminder of the new person's place in the house. The second is a test of one's ability to cope...if someone can't handle being hazed, they will NOT be able to handle the mental obstacles that our career field has to offer. I've been hazed as a child, as a teenager, in the military, and in the fire service. It's what made me who I am today, and I have to say I'm very proud of what I've grown to be. It honestly makes me worry about what kind of selfish punk I might have turned out to be without it.
Jon WhiskeyWednesday, January 30, 2013 10:11:20 PM Ian Shelton I can stop certain things like cussing and name calling. But I have major issue with some of your reply. Hazing/Pranking and bullying are VERY important factors in people's lives. I was hazed and bullied for most of my life. Am I a bully now? I like to think not since I'm usually the one who would stop someone bullying another once it got too far. But the fact that IT HAPPENED to me, so I know what it is, what it feels like and the importance of standing up for myself. Imagine growing up, and never touching something hot because the people in the world kept you away from hot things...You'd grow up never knowing why you don't touch something hot...Does that make you SAFER? No it doesn't, it makes you less educated. NOT A GOOD THING. People wonder why now days kids are so messed in the head, and can't seem to function like people only a couple generations ago did...IT'S BECAUSE OF THINKING LIKE THIS..."Too much of this (hazing, discipline, or anything else that what I call a wuss doesn't like) is a bad thing, we must get rid of it". No, we SHOULD NOT get rid of things like hazing, pranks, and bullying. It builds character. What we should get more of is knowledge, discipline, and knowing when enough is enough. The fact of the matter is, when firefighters were first doing their jobs when there was NO SCBA, and almost no safety measures that we have today...it took a certain kind of person to do this job. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE from that guy, and the current day firefighter. We have to be strong, tough, and have thick skin. There's no way that someone who thinks the world is rainbows and unicorns is someone who can cut a screaming person out of a car, or run down several flights of stairs with an unconscious person on their shoulder to do CPR on them yet still function in their personal lives. What I'm saying is, we cannot get rid of what makes us rough men and women...it is what made us as great as we are.
David ParsonsMonday, February 04, 2013 9:43:28 PMMr. Whiskey, your attitude is exactly why firefighting has lost some of its credibility in the eyes of the people we serve. I have never seen true brotherhood gained from hazing. It is simply illegal, but more importantly immoral. The fact that you ignored the incident and just complained that they went out in public illustrates how bullies and harassers have acted through history. As many other posters have stated, its not professional, its not leadership, and its immature. My crew will act based upon mutual respect and professionalism, not some false bravado garnered through childish games that most people left behind in high school. We are better than that as people and a society.