Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sex at city fire hall alleged

Woman says she was drunk; officials may reopen probe

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The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service might reopen its probe of an alleged sexual incident involving a firefighter now that the woman involved has revealed damning details.

"We had sex. It definitely wasn't just kissing like they said," the woman said in an exclusive interview with the Free Press, claiming fire officials never bothered to get her side of the story.

She admits being "severely intoxicated" after a night at the bar with friends when a group of firefighters invited her to the Osborne Street hall as she walked by on her way home.

"I was definitely taken advantage of," she said. "You're at a fire station, you're intoxicated..., you're supposed to feel safe."

She and a male friend both attempted to speak about the incident with fire officials who said they were "sorry" for what happened and would take the matter seriously. But she says she never heard from them again.

"I'm not sure how they planned to get ahold of me. They didn't even write down my name or number," she said.

The 24-year-old waitress is furious officials never interviewed her and believes the WFPS and the local firefighters union have tried to cover up the truth. At a closed-door disciplinary hearing last month, the firefighter was demoted from his position as on-shift facilitator for water rescue and transferred from Station No. 4 on Osborne Street to another station for what the union said was an incident involving only kissing.

Ken Sim, the deputy chief of operations for the WFPS, said Thursday the woman's claims are alarming and contrary to what the firefighter at the centre of the controversy claims happened.

"It certainly would shed some different light on this if in fact she was taken advantage of. If that's the case, I would certainly encourage her to get in touch with the Winnipeg Police Service," said Sim. "We dealt with the information the firefighter provided us at face value."

Sim said the internal investigation, which was led by a local platoon chief, shows his department had no idea who the woman was or how they could contact her for a statement.

United Firefighters of Winnipeg president Alex Forrest said the firefighter apologized for kissing the woman in a property shed but denied the incident went any further.

"There wasn't sex that went on in the shed," Forrest said following the Aug. 25 hearing. "There was kissing and that's all that could have happened... we know the timelines."

A city statement that same day said the incident breached the City of Winnipeg's employee code of conduct. The city did not release the duration of the man's suspension from work, but a source said it was a 28-hour suspension without pay.

The woman contacted the Free Press this week, wondering how conclusions were reached in the case despite the fact she was never asked for her side of the story. She said she had been at the Billabong bar in Osborne Village with friends and was walking home alone, while drunk, when she passed by the fire station. She said about four or five firefighters who were standing outside the open doors called her over.

"It's all a little bit blurry, but we were just sitting around, talking about the scariest things they've ever done on their job. I was sitting on a fire truck at one point," said the woman. "I remember we started talking about having a contest to see who could jump over a fence. I tried, but fell and smashed my leg. It was a joke, it was fun, they were laughing."

The woman said she asked to use the washroom inside the fire station. She walked out to find the firefighter standing nearby. He eventually led her to the storage shed just behind the building.

"I remember asking him if he was using a condom. We were on the floor, having sex. I remember there being a barbecue and a lawn mower around," she said. "I was definitely drunk, but I was obviously going along with it as I don't remember yelling out for him to stop."

Their tryst ended when an alarm bell started ringing, signifying an incoming emergency call.

"He jumped up. I remember him fumbling around, swearing and cursing, trying to get his clothes back on. It took him a while," said the woman. She eventually got dressed and went home -- but returned a few hours later once she had sobered up and realized what happened.

"I started crying, and I was angry. They told me they were really, really sorry, that this sort of thing didn't usually happen," she said. She said two senior members of the crew told her they'd heard about what happened and it would be investigated. The woman also confronted the firefighter.

"He took me aside, told me not to say anything, that we were just kissing and touching and to tell everyone nothing happened," she said. "I asked him if he had any diseases. He gave me a hug, told me to go home."

Days later, the woman's male friend stormed down to the station after learning what happened. A different crew was working that day. The man told the Free Press he caused "a bit of a ruckus" by telling members what happened and demanding an investigation.

Forrest said Thursday the woman's claims are "troubling."

"That's not the story we heard from the firefighter," he said.

Forrest questioned her motives for only coming forward now, through the media, and whether her claims were accurate.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 4, 2009 A4

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