Cal Fire cadets fired over academy drinking set to go back to work

Most of the California state firefighters who were fired last year because they drank alcohol during a training academy will return to work in 2018


By Adam Ashton 
Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Most of the California state firefighters who were fired last year because they drank alcohol during a training academy will return to work in 2018, according to Cal Fire and their union.

Cal Fire in April announced that 17 firefighters would be dismissed from state service because they violated a code of conduct during their seven-week academy by drinking alcohol after hours. They're supposed to stay sober through the training, except on weekends.

Cal Fire agreed to reduce the punishment to an eight-month suspension for eight of the firefighters, the department said. Two of them receive a one-year suspension instead of dismissal.

Two more cadets are still fighting their punishment and are expected to appear before the State Personnel Board next month. The others resigned or did not contest their dismissals.

Cal Fire since a 2014 scandal in which an instructor murdered his girlfriend has tried to change a persistent partying culture that took root at its academy in Amador County. The killing led to a California Highway Patrol investigation that revealed regular alcohol consumption after hours and alleged cheating by cadets on exams.

Firefighters are advised before they begin the academy that they are not to drink during their assignment there, except when they leave for weekend breaks.

Cal Fire firefighters often don't go to the academy until they've worked for the state for several years in seasonal positions. When they graduate from the academy, they can become permanent, year-round firefighters.

Losing those jobs -- even the seasonal ones -- meant giving up a reliable six-figure income.

Cal Fire Local 2881, the union that represents state firefighters, negotiated some of the settlements. Other firefighters sought private attorneys to help them with their cases.

Copyright 2018 Sacramento Bee

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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