R.I. fire department criticized after firefighter filmed using ladder truck to bring dog to groomer

"We buy these fire trucks to go on rescue runs and on fire runs, not to go to the dog grooming parlor."

A video taken Monday afternoon appears to show a Warwick, Rhode Island firefighter using a department-issued ladder truck to take a dog to a local groomer.

Rob Cote, the 63-year-old Warwick watchdog who recorded the video, says that this is one of many examples of the fire department abusing its budget and political leverage.

“There has been an ongoing issue in Warwick of [the fire department] abusing their vehicles,” Cote told Boston.com. “It’s been happening for years.”

Cote says the fire truck traveled from the station to the groomer, where he filmed the firefighter bringing the dog inside.

Caution: Explicit language.

The video also comes after the department requested an additional $70,000 for fuel at a city finance meeting, citing rising fuel costs.


“They’re just wasting money, driving around, not performing any work,” Cote said. “And the end result is an impact on the budget, which is an impact on the taxpayer.”

Cote has recorded several videos of the fire trucks across the city, saying that people have texted him videos and complaints as well. He argues that the city needs to take accountability, install GPS trackers onto the vehicles, and discipline the firefighters.

“I respect the department, I respect the work that they do, but I don’t respect the abusive nature of some of the things that they do,” Cote said. “It’s so prevalent and [happens] so often that you can take your car to go to the gas station and you see these guys doing something stupid.”

After Cote posted the video, the department determined the firefighter’s actions to violate the city’s policies.

“Upon reviewing the report of inappropriate use of a department vehicle on 1/16/2023, it has been determined that there was a violation of department policy and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken,” Fire Chief Peter K. McMichael said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

McMichael said the dog is not owned by the department, and deemed the firefighter’s actions a violation of the city’s approved shopping policy, which “govern[s] the use of fire apparatus [to visit] stores, pharmacies, and other businesses.” 


While the Warwick Fire Department did acknowledge Cote’s latest complaint, the city and 63-year-old have often been at odds. Cote’s averse relationship with the municipal government is well documented, with lawsuits, ethics complaints, and criminal harassment charges having intertwined the two for years.


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