Fire capt. under investigation for battling blaze while off duty

Jay Schwartz can be seen in a video picking up a hose once a fire truck arrives and spraying a burning house without wearing any protective gear

By John Chambliss
The Ledger

LAKELAND, Fla. — A captain with Polk County Fire and Rescue is under internal investigation for fighting a house fire earlier this month in North Lakeland while he was off duty.

A complaint has been filed against firefighter Jay Schwartz, who is also union president of the Polk County IAFF Local 3531, county officials said.

Capt. Schwarz can be seen in a video fighting a house fire while off duty. (Photo/YouTube)
Capt. Schwarz can be seen in a video fighting a house fire while off duty. (Photo/YouTube)

"There are allegations against him working at a scene while he was off duty," said Joe Halman, deputy county manager. "Once we get all the facts we'll determine if there were any violations of policy."

Halman declined to release additional details about the investigation, citing its ongoing nature.

Schwartz, who did not return a phone message, can be seen in a video provided to The Ledger fighting a house fire on West Daughtery Road on April 4.


Schwartz, who isn't wearing any protective gear, picks up a hose once the fire truck arrives and begins spraying a burning house at 704 W. Daughtery Road.

Firefighters can be seen in the video standing in front of the home while Schwartz sprays the roof of the home. Later, Schwartz, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, can be seen in a video talking to deputies.

The late-morning fire destroyed the home, used as a boarding house, and left 12 people homeless.

After an investigation by the state fire marshal a day after the fire, Charles Wayne, a 62-year-old resident of the home, was charged with first-degree arson and two counts of arson causing serious bodily harm. Two deputies were treated for smoke inhalation after they retrieved Wayne.

The state fire marshal determined that the fire was intentionally set with an ignitable fluid.

Deputies had been told a man in the backyard had threatened a neighborhood woman with a knife when he saw her recording video of him at the fire scene. Following an investigation, the Polk County Sheriff's Office added charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon to the three counts of arson Wayne already was facing.

Copyright 2018 The Ledger

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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