Baldwin County firefighter arrested after illegally inspecting homes
Charles Gardner has only been fighting blazes for about a year. Now the fireman is in the Baldwin County jail charged with three counts of criminal trespassing.
Gardner is accused of checking residential fire alarms and fire extinguishers without the consent of the fire department.
“We won’t tolerate anything like this on our department,” says Baldwin County Fire Department Chief Troy Reynolds. “We want to run a professional department. Our integrity is important to us. So at that point he was terminated.”
The fire chief says Gardner was wearing a firefighter T-shirt and showed his identification to residents to gain access inside their homes.
“All of his equipment, identification, shirts, and everything he had has been retrieved and we have that back in our possession,” added Reynolds.
Reynolds says as soon as he got calls from residents complaining about Gardner, the fire chief took to social media.
“We posted on Facebook being pro-active to get this investigation going to get this stopped to see who it was,” he explained.
That move paid off. The Facebook comments from the post gave Reynolds more information about Gardner. It turns out he had been going door-to-door Monday in the Sussex and Lake Sinclair communities.
“We don’t know why he was doing this, but he was operating outside the scope of his duty,” he continued.
The fire chief says the Gardner’s arrest “comes at a bad time.”
“The Volunteer Firefighters do have a picture fundraiser occurring right now, which involves door-to-door solicitations for donations,” he explained. “Contributors donate to the volunteer fund and have their picture taken by a professional photographer. None of these representatives should be asking to enter homes.”
Reynolds urged residents if they have any concerns regarding the volunteer firefighter fundraiser to contact the Baldwin County Fire headquarters at (478) 445 4421.
Major Scott Deason of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s office says law enforcement’s reputation is at stake.
“It gives public safety and every branch of public safety a black eye because we rely on the public trust and the rapport we have with our citizens,” says Major Scott Deason. “We appreciate that the residents were diligent in their observation of him and realized something wasn’t quite right.”
Chief Reynolds says the department did a background check on Gardner and learned he had never been arrested.
If you believe Gardner went into your home under false pretenses, call the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office at (478) 445-4891.