Criminal investigators with the U.S. Coast Guard are probing an elite group of Los Angeles firefighters at the city’s port to determine whether federal licensing records were falsified for crew members assigned to large fireboats, the Los Angeles Times reported today.
In June, a special agent of the Coast Guard Investigative Service requested 10 years of LAFD logs, journals and other records that document the operation of the department’s fleet of five fireboats, according to a copy of the request obtained by The Times.
An internal LAFD memo sent last week said the investigation is focusing on whether “unidentified members” of the unit properly obtained Coast Guard licenses required by the city.
Officials with the Coast Guard and the LAFD confirmed the investigation Tuesday but declined to provide details because the inquiry is ongoing, The Times reported.
LAFD spokesman Peter Sanders told the newspaper that his agency is” cooperating fully” with the investigation and holding off on any internal review of the matter until federal agents have completed their work.
The specially trained and equipped fireboat units under scrutiny are stationed at firehouses near the Port of Los Angeles. They conduct search-and-rescue operations at sea and fight waterfront fires.
The teams include scuba divers trained for underwater firefighting, as well as crews that operate the LAFD harbor-based fleet, including a 105-foot, water-cannon equipped boat described as “the world’s most powerful fireboat.”
Under city rules, pilots and mates assigned to the boats must first secure Coast Guard-issued licenses that involve specialized training, a written exam and verification of hundreds of hours of experience at sea.
Investigators are focusing on whether licensing paperwork documenting the time spent on the water by some firefighters was overstated, a source familiar with the investigation told The Times. The inquiry began after investigators received a tip, the source said.
Sanders told The Times that the LAFD conducted a similar internal investigation two years ago but was unable to substantiate allegations that records had been falsified.