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Ex-firefighter's arrest troubles department

Members of the Land O'Lakes Volunteer Fire Department were stunned earlier this week by the arrest of a former firefighter.

Even more shocking was the crime of which Robert Troidl, 22, had been accused: phoning in false bomb threats via 911 to Chamberlain High School in Tampa.

"You just wonder why some people do the things they do," said Lt. Walter Hardy, the department's public relations officer. "And you wonder for what godly reason he would want to do that."

Authorities say Troidl called 911 three times Monday after 9 a.m., telling emergency hotline operators that he was being held at gunpoint inside the school by a madman who threatened to blow up the building.

More than 500 students and faculty were evacuated from the school at 9401 N Boulevard. The FBI was called to the scene. The Tampa police bomb squad searched the building.

A school resource officer reported seeing a man driving around the school campus in a Pontiac Sunbird, talking on a cellular phone.

The man on the phone was Troidl, authorities say.

Police stopped the man, and, after several hours of questioning, charged him with two counts of making bomb threats and one count of disrupting school. He was still being held Thursday in the Hillsborough County Jail on $20,250 bail.

Troidl told police he called in the false threats because he and his 17-year-old girlfriend had quarreled, and he wanted to talk to her, authorities say. Troidl had no prior arrests.

News that a former firefighter had been accused of phoning in false threats hit the fire department's staff of 30 men and women hard, Hardy said.

But it was Troidl's two brothers on the force who took the news hardest.

George Troidl, 25, is a lieutenant with the department and the oldest of the brothers. Joey Troidl, 19, a firefighter with the force, is the youngest.

"George is upset as h--- about it," Hardy said.

The three brothers have been on the force since their days as teens, when they were junior firefighters, Hardy said.

George Troidl, who works at Hardy's business in Lutz, Walt's Upholstery, has been on the force the longest, having served nine years. Joey Troidl, a self-employed car detailer, joined the force as a firefighter when he turned 18.

Both firefighters have served the department with distinction, Hardy said.

"Joey's a great, great guy, nothing like Robert," Hardy said. "George has been with the department since he was 16. They are just outstanding members of the fire department. I wish we had more like them.

"They're very big assets."

Their brother Robert was also a junior firefighter during his teen years, Hardy said, but his performance record with the department took a nose dive six months ago, and he was let go.

"He just wasn't reliable enough," Hardy said. "He was probably too young and not responsible enough."

Robert Troidl was let go for "failing to pull his own weight" Hardy said. He often missed the volunteer force's mandatory two-hour training shifts every Tuesday, and once missed a duty shift, Hardy said.

About 30 days later, Troidl was let back onto the force _ but for a 90-day probationary period.

Days later, Troidl was off the force for good. He violated the same rules that got him thrown off the force in the first place, Hardy said, among other reasons.

"There's a lot of other factors I don't wish to discuss that led to his dismissal," Hardy said. "Let's just say that you have to conduct yourself in a professional manner in the eyes of the public, and obviously he didn't want to assume that responsibility. We, as a community-supported fire department, have to keep that in mind all the time.

"He just didn't have the oommph it takes to be involved down here. You have to dedicate a lot of time."

Hardy wondered if Troidl really wanted to make the commitment to volunteer firefighting.

"If someone wants to be a firefighter, they'll do what it takes," Hardy said.

Hardy said there has been some animosity between the brothers.

"I think he's (Robert) just the one in the family that doesn't have any direction. That's something we try to do down here, we try to give everyone a sense of direction and help them the best we can," Hardy said. "I guess he just had other things on his mind."