Tragic Johnson the Cowardly Firefighter – Not a Kid’s Story

By Thomas E. Cheever, P.E.

Thanks to affirmative action and court ordered quotas, the New York Fire Department allegedly has a coward on the payroll.  The rookie coward is Michael D ‘Tragic’ Johnson.

Unlike police officers which patrol the streets, ostensibly protecting the citizenry, firefighters have one job – to put out fires when called.  Fear in the face of danger is normal.  Cowardice is not.

 tragic johnson

Quotas Lower Standards

Before joining the FDNY, Johnson was an EMT for New York city.  By all accounts he was good at his job, earning two medals for his work as a paramedic.

Johnson was identified with 289 ‘priority hires’ by a federal judge in a discrimination lawsuit against the FDNY. Each of the 289 had been ‘passed over’ when they applied to the Department in 1999 or 2000.

Johnson was offered a place in the most diverse Fire Academy class in history. Johnson who is 41, on his third attempt to complete the training, graduated on June 2, 2014. He was assigned to FDNY Engine Co 257 in Canarsie, Brooklyn for his one year rookie probation period.

Many from Johnson’s Academy class of 24% Hispanic, 17% black, and 4 females, have shown themselves to be outstanding firefighters. Johnson, has been sent back for additional training twice.

Photo of the rookie staying on the sidelines of a fire his head can be seen near the car roof

Firefighter Michael D. Johnson – facebook photo

Tragic Johnson Calls It In

During his probationary period, Johnson’s performance has been anything but stellar. Sources from FDNY Engine Co 257 told reporters that Michael D Johnson had routinely gone missing at the scene of fires. Earing him the nickname ‘Tragic Johnson’, he’s always quick with an excuse to stand on the sidelines while the rest of the ladder risk their lives inside burning buildings.

One Engine Co 257 source, who wished not to be identified, said,

“He’s a nice enough person, but he’s certainly lacking in the ability to put himself in harm’s way.”

Early on, fellow firefighters claimed Johnson was hedging when they would respond to a call. The work appeared to leave Johnson rattled.

After battling a fire last over last summer’s July 4th weekend, Johnson allegedly took several months of medical leave.

Diversity Over Safety

Though officials in the company have complained about Johnson, they say department brass has so far refused to fire Johnson. Did I mention Johnson is black, and was hired under a program to promote minorities in the FDNY. One FDNY source said,

“The department seems to not want to give a f*** about any of this because they want to fill their quota.”

Johnson was recently photographed standing on the curb, April 2nd, while the rest of his fellow firefighters file into the three alarm fire.

Johnson was supposed to be the number 2 man on the hose team. Johnson’s captain called ‘mayday’ over the radio – the typical response to when a firefighter is AWOL.  The captain was sure Johnson was okay, but he wanted to make sure his ‘disappearance’ was documented. (All firefighter radio transmissions are recorded.)

Johnson claimed he went back to the truck to get a fresh oxygen bottle. But, according to sources, since he didn’t go into the fire his bottle should not have been low to begin with. One source said,

“To have a guy that you know to be afraid is not going to be there for you when you need him to be – it’s frightening.”

Following the April 2nd incident, Johnson’s captain wrote a letter to Division superiors complaining about Johnson’s behavior. Johnson was ordered to undergo additional re-training.

Lower Standards Risks Lives

Not everyone is cut out for every job. Whether it be the New York Fire Department or the United States Military Special Forces, the standards established for qualification are exactly that, ‘standards’. If you can’t meet the standards, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender, then you’re not fit for the job.

There can be no exception without putting others, and the very mission in jeopardy.

The Cowardly Lion of Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz eventually found his courage with the Wizard’s help.

Tragic Johnson may need a vacation. I suggest he start looking for a yellow brick road.