SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sixteen state firefighters were placed on paid administrative leave for unrelated policy violations that grew out of an investigation into allegations of firefighters having sex on fire trucks, officials said.
The investigation began in May after Orville Fleming, fire academy instructor and battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, was charged with murder in the death of a former escort who became his girlfriend.
Fleming’s estranged wife told Sacramento County sheriff’s investigators and reporters then that she had viewed a video showing the victim, Sarah June Douglas, 26, having sex with her husband and other firefighters on fire trucks.
“The investigation has already determined that allegations of a sex tape are unfounded,” CalFire spokeswoman Janet Upton said. There also was no use of prostitutes or other improper sexual activity on state time or equipment, she said.
Sacramento County deputies previously said they never found a video, but CalFire asked the California Highway Patrol to investigate because of the seriousness of the allegations. The formal results of the investigation are expected early next month.
Upton said the firefighters were placed on paid leave on suspicion of “a variety of policy violations unrelated to allegations of a sex tape.” Further details were not disclosed.
The majority of the employees are or were full-time instructors at the department’s fire academy in Ione, where Fleming worked, 40 miles southeast of Sacramento, she said.
Highway Patrol spokeswoman Fran Clader said she would not comment, referring inquiries to CalFire.
Mike Lopez, president of the union representing department employees, and union spokesman Terry McHale both said they were given no details on the allegations faced by the suspended firefighters.
“If there are employees who broke protocols or procedures with academy or department policies, that’s a very sad situation that nobody’s proud of,” Lopez said.
Without knowing the particulars, it is too soon to know if the union would help employees with any appeals of their pending discipline, he said.
Fleming’s estranged wife, Meagan Fleming, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Orville Fleming was arrested following a two-week manhunt after Douglas’ body was discovered in the home they shared. Fleming is next scheduled to appear in court in March. He has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge.
His attorney, Peter Kmeto, said he was aware of Meagan Fleming’s comments but he never found a sex tape as part of his investigation, and Monday’s developments will have no bearing on the criminal case.