A Boston firefighter resigned last week after testing positive for cocaine after a recent screening for drugs and alcohol among a group of 50 probationary firefighters, high ranking city sources told the Herald.
Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald would not provide the name of the firefighter or the unit that the rookie was assigned to, nor would he confirm that the firefighter had tested positive for the drug.
“I can’t tell you. It’s a personnel issue and we don’t discuss personnel issues,” MacDonald said, adding, “We did have a probationary firefighter resign (Monday) from the department for personal reasons. We are not going to identify who that person is.”
But two sources close to the department told the Herald that the firefighter resigned shortly after being told he had tested positive for cocaine.
MacDonald did acknowledge that the department conducted a drug and alcohol test two weeks ago for its current class of probationary firefighters, a practice Boston Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser enacted shortly after taking over the department in 2006.
“We test all probationary firefighters toward the end of their first year of employment before they leave their probationary status,” which for this group is June 11, MacDonald said. He added that candidates all are also given “pre-employment” testing before attending the fire academy.
The city, which is in arbitration with the Boston Firefighters Union, Local 718, over contract disputes, has been pushing for mandatory drug and alcohol testing of all firefighters.
Although drug and alcohol use has been suspected of contributing to the deaths of two firefighters who died in an August 2007 restaurant fire in West Roxbury, testing still remains a thorny and unresolved issue, with the union demanding a pay hike for agreeing to mandatory testing.
By Richard Weir