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Tarpon fire chief resigns over report on his drinking before fatal fire

Tarpon Springs Fire Chief Stephen Moreno resigned Tuesday after an investigation determined that his behavior warranted his termination.

Times files

Tarpon Springs Fire Chief Stephen Moreno resigned Tuesday after an investigation determined that his behavior warranted his termination.

TARPON SPRINGS — Fire Chief Stephen Moreno, who admitted drinking alcohol in the hours before he showed up at a house fire on Jan. 14, resigned Tuesday after an investigation determined that his behavior warranted his termination.

"As a result of considerable thought reading the statements submitted, I have come to the conclusion that the events as they occurred, as well as the fallout from those events, have created an adverse condition for all involved," Moreno wrote in a statement delivered to City Manager Mark LeCouris.

Dr. Frederick Roever, a prominent community figure, died in the fire that destroyed his million-dollar home. Investigators said Moreno's conduct had no bearing on Roever's death.

About 11:30 p.m. Jan. 14, Moreno arrived at the fire at 1304 Belcher Drive. Moreno had been drinking and was not in protective gear. The chief started giving orders, although an incident commander was in charge.

In his statement to investigators, Moreno said he had three Jack Daniels and water at Rusty Bellies Restaurant. He said he paid his tab about 8:15 p.m. and left for home about 8:30 p.m.

Moreno and his wife were getting ready for bed when a neighbor called and told them about the fire. Moreno said he and his wife went to the scene.

"At no time did I do anything that put anyone in specific danger," he wrote.

He went on to say: "It had been over three hours since I had consumed any alcoholic beverages, but like peanut butter, onions and other food, certain things stay on your breath for hours. I was not intoxicated, inebriated or in any way impaired while going to and from and while on scene."

Several firefighters at the scene said later that the chief's actions, by violating protocol, put lives in danger.

Tarpon fire chief resigns over report on his drinking before fatal fire 02/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 7:30pm]
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