The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department has initiated an internal administrative investigation into the posts on the local web forum, Fairfax Underground, regarding Firefighter-Paramedic Nicole Mittendorff. Virginia State Police remains the lead agency investigating Firefighter-Paramedic Mittendorff’s death. The investigation is ongoing, however, the missing person case has concluded.
The department’s preliminary investigation has determined that there was no departmental knowledge of any bullying or harassment regarding Firefighter-Paramedic Mittendorff prior to her disappearance. Working in collaboration with the County’s Department of Information and Technology, it has been verified that no county computer was used to access or post on Fairfax Underground. The web forum is independently maintained and not associated with Fairfax County government. At this time, the department does not know if the posts were authored by any county or Fire and Rescue Department employee. Investigators are actively continuing with the investigation and using every resource available.
“Fairfax County Fire and Rescue maintains a ‘zero tolerance’ policy in regards to bullying and harassment of any kind,” stated Fire Chief Richard Bowers. “I will hold any county employee or volunteer accountable for these hostile Fairfax Underground postings, which could include termination.”
Moving forward, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department will establish a task force with representatives from the IAFF Local 2068, Female Firefighters of Fairfax County, and other employee groups to address any issues that may exist within the department related to discrimination, harassment, and bullying in the workplace. This includes implementing additional “zero tolerance” harassment training. The harassment training and education program will be delivered by senior staff, employee group representatives, and Employee Equal Opportunity staff.
Additionally, Fire Chief Bowers will implement a comprehensive suicide education and prevention program throughout the department. The program will include extensive education and training in suicide prevention and mental illness. A continued emphasis will remain on behavioral health education and training with guidance from the International Association of Firefighters, International Association of Fire Chiefs. This includes increased training in the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Stress First Aid Course, which is designed to reduce the risk of stress reactions in fire and rescue personnel.