A San Francisco firefighter is under criminal investigation and could lose his job after police seized dozens of fittings and fire hoses from a building where he runs a sprinkler business in the city’s Mission District.
Mitchell Lee, 51, owns Pacific Automatic Sprinkler Co., where a fire started outside on the evening of April 14 that damaged the side of the building at 2601 Harrison St. After firefighters doused the flames, one fire captain spotted department issued hoses and fittings inside a garage.
The department quickly identified firefighter Lee, according to a search warrant affidavit in the case, as a suspect as he gave the Harrison Street address as his residence of record.
After obtaining a search warrant, police investigators seized 25 hoses and dozens of brass fittings. They also talked to Lee. He told them he bought the equipment at flea markets or picked up pieces firefighters had “left behind at fire scenes,” according to the summary of his interview in a search warrant.
He admitted that he had “neglected to return” the equipment. Oddly, none of the items had been reported stolen. One fire official told investigators that it is not uncommon for fire teams to inadvertently take equipment that belongs to other stations and later return it.
Lee’s attorney did not respond to calls seeking comment on Friday. Lee’s father, reached at the business, declined comment to NBC Bay Area.
Prosecutors are still evaluating the case to determine whether to file criminal charges, said District Attorney’s Office spokesman Alex Bastian.
NBC Bay Area has also learned that while Lee has been notified he faces termination from the department, the investigation does not stop with him. Sources say at least one supervisor has been notified that he faces administrative discipline for allegedly failing to account for all the missing equipment in the police report.