16 state firefighters placed on paid leave amid investigation

16 California state firefighters placed on paid administrative leave

Several state firefighters were placed on paid leave Monday as part of an ongoing investigation sparked by allegations of sexual misconduct at a fire academy in Northern California.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said a majority of the 16 employees on “administrative time off” teach at the academy in Ione.

Details about the violations aren't being released, but Berlant said they're unrelated to the initial allegations.

“We just know that 16 employees violated some type of policy or procedure,” he said.

The investigation began in May -- the same month officials launched a statewide manhunt for Battalion Chief Orville Fleming, 56, who is charged in the stabbing death of his fiancee. 

Fleming, who was an instructor at the academy in Ione, was arrested later that month and is in jail awaiting trial in Sacramento County.

Fleming’s estranged wife has publicly alleged that firefighters had sex with prostitutes on firetrucks at the academy and that a sex tape had been made there. 

No sex tape was found, Berlant said, and the allegation about prostitutes was also unfounded.

“There was nothing found that followed through with what she alleged,” Berlant said.  “The violations were not specific to the allegations.”

Because of the “seriousness and high-profile nature of the case,” Berlant said the department asked the California Highway Patrol to investigate.

Monday’s announcement about the firefighters placed on leave came as the department prepares to receive a full report from CHP in the next couple of weeks. The CHP didn’t return a call for comment on the investigation.

A new academy class will start early in 2015, Berlant said, and new instructors will be brought in to replace those on administrative leave in Ione.

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