The Las Vegas fire chief announced plans Thursday to install surveillance cameras and limit visitation at all 20 stations to prevent sexual misconduct within the department.
“Misconduct of any kind is not tolerated,” Chief William McDonald said at a morning news conference. “There is a zero tolerance in Las Vegas Fire and Rescue for this kind of behavior. We all take the allegations very seriously, and I promise you that each allegation we receive will be thoroughly investigated.”
McDonald scheduled the news conference shortly after the Las Vegas Review-Journal inquired about the claims of a former EMT who told the newspaper that sex is commonplace at Las Vegas Fire Department stations, even though department policies prohibit it.
The chief previously had rejected interview requests from the Review-Journal about the recent arrest of Capt. Richard Loughry, who is accused of having sex with a 15-year-old prostitute inside Station 47. Loughry faces eight felony charges.
Gino Miller, who is accused of forcing the girl into prostitution just days before her firehouse encounter, is being held without bail in federal custody on charges of sex trafficking of children and coercion and enticement.
According to Loughry’s arrest report, he acknowledged during an interview with a detective that “he has brought females to the fire station where he works to have sex on a few occasions.” In court, a prosecutor attacked Loughry’s character because of the “surreptitious activities.”
Loughry’s attorney, Craig Hendricks, appeared before Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Cynthia Cruz on Thursday morning, about two hours before the fire chief’s news conference. The judge reminded Hendricks that Loughry, who is under house arrest and did not appear in court, is prohibited from using the internet.
Hendricks told the judge that Loughry, who is on unpaid leave from the department, has turned off the internet in his home and surrendered his smartphone.
McDonald referred to another “isolated incident” of a firefighter having sex at Station 5 about two years ago. He declined to reveal that firefighter’s rank at the time but said the person was fired.
Ex-EMT comes forward
After learning about Loughry’s arrest, former Las Vegas resident Mallissa Barthule told the Review-Journal she had more than 50 sexual encounters at fire stations with at least seven firemen over the course of several years. Barthule, who now lives in Texas, worked for seven years as an emergency medical technician for the private ambulance company AMR.
Barthule shared text messages, Facebook exchanges and journal entries documenting her trysts at Las Vegas fire stations. She said she came forward because she felt Loughry was made a scapegoat.
“You can’t throw one person to the wolves and let everyone else watch,” Barthule said. “They know this is going on. They should treat the problem equally and fairly.”
McDonald addressed Barthule’s allegations in an interview after Thursday’s news conference.
“If we find that there’s something to investigate there, we will do a full investigation by the department,” the chief said. “If we were to find there was validity to it, then we would hold those folks very accountable.”
Union president responds
Eric Littmann, president of Las Vegas Firefighters Local 1285, said Wednesday he knew nothing of firefighters having sex while on duty. He declined to comment directly on the allegations against Loughry, citing an ongoing disciplinary investigation, but emphasized that such activity was not reflective of the department.
“Our members serve this community with honor and integrity,” Littmann said. “And as with many organizations dealing with similar issues, one individual’s acts do not accurately represent us. At the end of the day, we’re a microcosm of society, and with that being said, we deal with similar issues as such.”
On Thursday, Littmann said he supported measures to prevent sexual misconduct.
“We’re still shocked,” he said of Loughry’s arrest. “We’re surprised as to what’s transpired.”
The Review-Journal has requested documentation relating to discipline of Las Vegas Fire Department employees over sexual activity. David Riggleman, communications director for the city of Las Vegas, said Rule 12 of the department’s rules of conduct prohibits sex while on duty.
Barthule alleges she was having sex with a Las Vegas firefighter inside the turnout room at Station 5 a few years back when a rescue call rang out.
“He pulled his pants up, threw his boots on and left,” she said.
While she hid inside a locker, another firefighter stumbled in, dressed and ran to the rescue truck, Barthule said. She doesn’t think he noticed her.
She said she listened for the doors to close before she walked to her car, which was parked in the parking lot of a nearby Elk’s Lodge.
“I got a phone call about 10 minutes later,” she said. The firefighter told her: “We’re back at the station. My partner didn’t see you. Come back.”
So, Barthule said, she returned to finish the encounter.
‘It’s not like it’s a secret’
Barthule, 40, estimated that she had sex in 13 different fire stations, starting in 2008. She said her last encounter was around 2015. She’s aware of how she might be viewed for revealing such intimate details of her life.
“What people are going to see and take from it, or those who choose to, is that I’m just a big whore who sleeps around, and I’m looking for something,” she said. “But that’s not the case. This is an issue that the Fire Department knows about. It’s not like it’s a secret.”
Barthule also claims she had sex in at least one county fire station.
But Clark County Fire Chief Greg Cassell said Thursday that he was unaware of anyone having sex at one of his 30 stations in the valley or 13 volunteer stations countywide. In his 28 years with the department, he said, he could not recall “a single occurrence of that, rumor or otherwise.”
Cassell said his department restricts visitors at stations after 9 p.m., unless a supervisor has been notified, but it has no policy regarding sex at the stations.
“I wouldn’t think you’d have to have a policy like that,” he said. “If we feel that there’s a need for that later, we’ll address it, but right now I don’t really feel the need to do that.”
Henderson spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said the city also has no specific policy regarding sexual activity. However, she said the Fire Department’s rules and regulations require employees to obey the law, use good judgment and refrain from activity that is detrimental to the department.
Chief Matthew Morris and human resources director Jennifer Fennem, who have worked with the city for more than 20 years, said no investigations of sexual activity have been launched at any of the fire stations.
Richards said Henderson has nine fire stations and 219 Fire Department employees.
Authorities claim Loughry paid the teen girl $300 for sex at his station, where assessment has begun for the installation of surveillance cameras. Officials are gathering estimates on the total cost of installing cameras, Riggleman said.
Barthule said she knew Loughry in passing but didn’t know he was having sex at the station. She said she was not aware of prostitutes visiting stations.
In the emergency response world, she said, there’s a running joke: “Why do firefighters go to work? So they can call their girlfriends.”
Barthule worked for AMR between 2003 and 2010, when she was fired as a result of her addiction to pain medication.
“I’m not embarrassed about anything I’ve done,” she said. “It’s part of my road. It’s part of my journey. I’m honest and truthful about it.”
Contact David Ferrara at email@example.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.
Arranging station trysts
The Review-Journal reviewed dozens of text messages and Facebook exchanges provided by Mallissa Barthule, a former EMT in Las Vegas, who claims she was arranging sexual encounters at fire stations.
Below are edited excerpts (R refers to “rescue”; E refers to “engine”):
Firefighter: Wanna get naked?
Firefighter: Tomorrow night station 47
Barthule: K, I’ll message you tomorrow
Firefighter: But hell yes
Firefighter: So what’s the plan
Barthule: Hot sex!!!!
Did you have something else in mind ? 🙂
Firefighter: U will be coming from your house right??? U can prob leave now if u want… Park on south side of station on immediate right when u come in driveway… Text me when u r about 5 out. Ill prop the rescue bay door open.
Firefighter: Oh short skirt no panties no loud jewelry lol
Firefighter: We r actually going on a call quick one
Firefighter: So come in the rescue door where the rescue is parked. Go through the door to go into station make first right. Second door on left. But before u come in to station text me so coast is clear lol
Barthule: Ok, on my way now
Firefighter: Now hopefully we don’t get a call
Barthule: Charleston and MLK
Firefighter: Ok still here so far lol
Barthule: I am here
Firefighter: Ok come in quietly
Barthule: ok, when?
Barthule: what door? R or E?
Firefighter: Just waiting for everyone to go to sleep E
Firefighter: Where r u
Barthule: home is the coast clear?
Barthule: ok, see ya soon. E door still?
Firefighter: By r door