A New Mexico fire department found itself addressing a bullying incident that happened to a firefighter who works across the country for a department with the same name.
Over the weekend, news spread about volunteer firefighter Jason Eagan. Eagan’s sister, Kristin Cavins, said her brother has been a volunteer firefighter for the Village of Sandoval in Illinois since 2016.
“We could be having dinner and he would leave to go to the fire department to have dinner with them,” she said. “This has always been his dream.”
Cavins said her 33-year-old brother, with Down Syndrome, recently turned in his gear and quit volunteering at the fire station. She said he was being bullied by two of his fellow firefighters.
“I was heartbroken,” Cavins said. “They would erase his name off the board showing how many calls he’s been on. Then, one time one of the guys got up to leave and said ‘I have to go the f***ing, retard is coming.”
Last week, Kristin posted to Facebook. The response was overwhelming.
“I have received so many messages, I can’t keep up,” she said. “Jason’s been getting messages from firefighters all over the country. The love and support we are getting is amazing.”
However, with support comes backlash for the fire department in question. Even, for the Sandoval County Fire Department here in New Mexico. People across the country have mixed up the two departments. Fire Chief James Maxon said he understands why people are outraged.
“In the fire service, bullying is not one of our values,” he said.
The messages even prompted the department to respond on Facebook saying in part, even though the incident didn’t happen here, “Sandoval County does not condone or tolerate bullying or harassment. We send our support to Mr. Eagan and hope that his concerns are heard and a thorough investigation is conducted to determine if there was any wrongdoing.”
“I certainly hope that he continues his fire service career,” Chief Maxon said. “If not where he was, someone else will help him be part of their family.”
As of Monday night, Cavins said the Sandoval Fire Department in Illinois did offer Eagan his job back.
“He’s ready to go back but as his family, we have to make sure this is not going to happen again.