Woman claims she had sex with firefighter at South Side firehouse

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A woman has alleged that she had sex in a South Side firehouse with a veteran Chicago firefighter, triggering an internal investigation at a time of heightened awareness on the issue.

“The Chicago Fire Department has an ongoing investigation into these allegations and will determine if they are true,” Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times. “Such conduct will not be tolerated in our firehouses and any member guilty of such an event will face appropriate discipline.”

Sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein have prompted an avalanche of allegations against men in acting, the media, the restaurant industry and politics.

The Hollywood sex scandal has also inspired a “Me Too” social media campaign that has spread to Springfield with a victim rights advocate’s allegations against state Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago).

Months ago, sexist emails were also among those uncovered in the city’s Department of Water Management, triggering a housecleaning as well as sensitivity training for all employees in the male bastion of a department at the center of the Hired Truck scandal.

Against that backdrop, the woman’s allegation about sex in a Chicago firehouse must be taken seriously — and the Emanuel administration says that’s what it’s doing.

Langford refused to identify either the firehouse, the accused firefighter or the woman who filed the complaint, nor would he say when the sex allegedly took place or how often.

Other sources said the complaint involved consensual sex in a South Side firehouse between a woman and a firefighter who, at the time, was her boyfriend.

The sources claimed that it was only after the firefighter broke off the relationship that the woman chose to file a complaint with the Fire Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs.

The investigation has been going on for months in an attempt to verify the woman’s claims, either by interviewing co-workers or going through telephone and text messages provided by the woman.

Firehouse sex is strictly off-limits. In addition, no visitors are allowed in Chicago firehouses after 10 p.m.

Even with those rigid rules, it’s not the first time that salacious charges have been made against Chicago firefighters.

In 2000, a 27-year-old prostitute arrested for burglarizing a suburban home claimed she performed oral sex on as many as five firefighters a night at several Chicago firehouses over 11 years.

At the time, Jennifer Manzella was being held in Cook County Jail on charges that she burglarized the Elmwood Park home of a retired Chicago firefighter with whom she said she shared an 11-year relationship.

According to sources familiar with her statement, she wrote that “part of my living circumstance included prostitution.”

She told police she was paid $25 for every sex act she performed, that the sex went on at “several” Chicago firehouses and that her 27-year-old roommate was performing similar acts for on-duty firefighters.

James Joyce, then the fire commissioner, threw the book at those accused of having firehouse sex with a prostitute and against firefighters who used their fire engine as a taxicab for Belmont Harbor partygoers who claimed they were too drunk to drive home.

But that wasn’t it for firehouse sex scandals.

In 2004, the Chicago Fire Department cut off Internet access at 59 firehouse computers — and ordered dozens of firefighters to undergo counseling — after determining that a computer at an O’Hare Airport station was used over a nine-month period to visit “inappropriate sites,” possibly including pornography.

Although the computer shenanigans on city time dragged on for months at O’Hare Rescue Two, nobody was suspended because the Fire Department’s Internal Investigations Division could not pinpoint who was responsible.

Earlier this week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a change in city policy that would guarantee city employees who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault up to one month of paid leave to get their lives back together.

Under questioning at a City Hall news conference, Human Resources Commissioner Soo Choi acknowledged that the sexist emails uncovered by Inspector General Joe Ferguson underscored the need for even more training to change the culture in departments like Water Management, Streets and Sanitation, Fleet Management and Transportation that remain male bastions.

“Our EEO division takes to heart what we’ve been seeing lately,” Choi said, obviously referring to the sexist emails. “We are in the process of expanding our training.”

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