MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Montgomery Fire Department has terminated 7 of its trainees and could be getting rid of more.
Since late August, 23 recruits have been working to become graduates of the Montgomery Fire Academy. But after senior officers noticed an irregularity in test results, an investigation was launched and found evidence of cheating on an early EMT exam.
After reporting their suspicions, the Montgomery Office of City Investigations confirmed the test had been compromised.
As a result, 1 trainee resigned, 7 were terminated, and the firefighter in charge of giving that exam is now in the termination process.
Montgomery's Director of Public Safety says a bad apple or two is common...but 7 is something else.
"We're not aware of in many, many, many years...20, 30 years type of thing, where we had this kind of allegation that's more widespread in this particular class," Murphy said. "But we believe this particular class and the circumstances around this incident is very isolated."
Of the 23 trainees that started in August, only 15 now remain. Since the investigation is ongoing, even more could be connected to the cheating scandal and terminated. With the trainee class already cut by a third, the effects will soon be felt by the fire department.
"We're doing fine as far as coverage for the city," Murphy said. "But until we get back up to full staffing, we will still have to kind of work with the amount of firefighters we have now, which means a little bit more overtime or being creative in the coverage."
On top of that, since the test itself was compromised, any training left standing after the investigation is complete will have to take the exam all over again.
Despite the challenges now posed, Murphy is pleased with how the department handled the situation once it came to light.
"This is an exceptional agency that provides the highest level of fire services. MF/R has acted immediately and appropriately in keeping with the character and integrity of the department and its employees. I hate that this has happened, I hate if for Chief Jordan, I hate it for all of the staff and I hate it for the men and women who do such an outstanding job every day and go in to face danger every day. But we will survive it, we will get past it. But again, never any question about whether we do the right thing."
Murphy says another June class is already being planned.