ANNANDALE, Va. — A group of female employees with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department spoke out in defense of their colleagues Wednesday as a barrage of allegations and controversy swirled around the agency.
“We’re a family, and like any family we have some black sheep,” said firefighter/paramedic Alisha Reakoff. “Those black sheep do not represent who we are as a whole.”
“I’ve had nothing but positive experiences,” added EMS technician Alyssa Vance.
The employees are pushing back against recent allegations of sexism, harassment and bullying against women within the department.
Last week, the fire official in charge of investigating workplace misconduct, Guy Morgan, was placed on leave for having lewd content on his Facebook page. That occurred just days after firefighter Magaly Hernandez filed a lawsuit against the department, claiming she has been sexually harassed for years.
And last month, Fire Chief Richard Bowers launched an investigation into cyberbullying following the suicide of firefighter/paramedic Nicole Mittendorff. There were numerous instances of people posting disparaging comments about her online, claiming to be Mittendorff’s co-workers.
“We’re disheartened about how the fire department and the personnel on the fire department are being portrayed publicly,” Reakoff said Wednesday.
“Never once was I treated any differently because of my gender.”
All of the allegations sparked action by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors this week. The board decided to hire an outside consultant to investigate the practices of the fire department.
“Every once in a while we have bad actors and they spoil things for the majority of very good people,” said Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova.
“I don’t want anyone to think we think bad behavior is pervasive but we do want to make sure where it exists we address it,” Bulova said.