Mass. firefighter fired for racist Facebook posts

The paid on-call firefighter joked about not hurrying to put out a fire at a black family's home following a massive house party at that home

By Eric Bosco
The Standard-Times

FREETOWN, Mass. — A Freetown call firefighter has been removed from the force after the fire chief was alerted to a racist comment he made about an Assonet house, owned by a black family, where a house party drew more than 1,000 guests earlier this month.

"I can see the next fire call will be this house on fire and I'll make sure I can't find the hydrant lol," Kyle Grenier, a volunteer, paid-by-call firefighter for the Freetown Fire Department for the past five years, posted in a June 22 Facebook conversation.

"Lol wait in fear the water might come out too fast," a Facebook friend replied to Grenier's reference to the June 18 house party at 18 Leonard Avenue that neighbors complained was out of control. After town police declined to shut down the party, which lasted until 4 a.m, Freetown selectmen and public safety officials held a special public discussion earlier this week.

"Nope just make sure no water so no more house party's with black Boston people," Grenier wrote back.

Fire Chief Gary Silvia said he was alarmed by the comments and said that kind of behavior has no place in his department.

"I was shocked and deeply saddened by the fact that he would say or write something like that," Silvia said in a phone interview with The Standard-Times on Thursday afternoon. Silvia added that he was first alerted to the remarks Thursday morning when New England Cable News contacted him for comment.

Kyle Brenier did not return multiple Facebook messages from The Standard-Times by deadline asking for comment about his statements.

Police did not intervene to break up the house party that overwhelmed the typically quiet Assonet neighborhood, choosing instead to let the party dissipate on its own. A daughter of the property owners had requested a detail officer before the party for what police were told would be a "small family reunion."

But buses dropped off loads of party goers, who purchased wristbands and were given beer as a part of the fee. Police said there were seven security guards and a DJ played loud music that drew numerous complaints. Police did not make any arrests at the scene.

Ashley Lochard, the daughter of the property owners who hosted the party, did not return multiple calls from The Standard-Times Thursday seeking comment about Grenier's Facebook rant. In a series of tweets in the days following the house party, Lochard mocked police and neighbors, bragged about the party and and denied police assertions that party attendants were uncooperative.

Silvia classified Grenier's comments as "more offensive than threatening" but was unequivocal about his disgust and said he would be meeting with Grenier on Thursday night to discuss the rant.

"Firefighters are held to the highest of standards," Silvia said. "He should know that."

More than 70 residents gathered at the Chace Road senior center Monday night to discuss their concerns with public safety officials and selectmen about the party. Residents said they feared emergency vehicles would have been unable to enter the neighborhood in the event of an emergency because of the size of the party.

Residents also asked what could be done to prevent similar events in the future. Police Chief Carlton Abbott said police would enact stricter requirements for police detail requests and Selectmen Chairman Paul Sadeck said the town is planning to pursue legal action against the homeowners.


(c)2016 The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass.

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