During the ongoing week of mourning within the Wilmington Fire Department, the selfless efforts to assist the families of the fallen have reportedly been hijacked for profit.
The Wilmington Firefighter's Association, Local 1590 of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), informed WDEL that bogus telephone appeals had been made, on at least six occasions, to solicit monetary donations for the families of the fallen firefighters, Lieutenant Christopher Leach and Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes, Jr.
"One of them involved a retired firefighter," revealed Bruce Schweiger, president of the Wilmington Firefighter's Association. "(He) knew right away exactly what was going on--what fundraisers we had set up, and the plans that we had in place, so when he questioned the caller, the caller immediately hung up."
Schweiger shared the frustration of having to fight back the dishonest claims of a few when so many are trying to offer real help.
"You're trying to help these families out and you're trying to get the support for the brothers and sisters. It's not only in the fire service, but law enforcement and EMS, everyone that knew the families. You're trying to give so much support to (the family members) and to be sidetracked to try and chase someone down who's trying to do something for their own gain...it's infuriating."
New Castle County Police are actively investigating the situation, and authorities are working to establish a telephone number for recipients of these fraudulent appeals to make additional reports.
As for Schweiger, he offered his own conclusion for those involved with such a desperate ploy.
"If we could find them, I would love to talk (them), face to face. And I'm sure there's a couple of thousand firefighters who, when they're in town this weekend (for funeral and memorial services), would love to have a conversation with these folks."
All legitimate donations could continue to be made at www.wilmingtonfirefighters.org
The Delaware Department of Justice relayed the requirements callers seeking donations are required, by law, to provide:
- Whether they are a paid fundraiser
- Where they are calling from, including company name and location
- The charity for which the funds are being raised
- The amount of the consumer's donation that will actually go to the charity
- If the charitable solicitation is on behalf of an individual(s) or their family, whether the party soliciting you has permission from the individual(s) or their family to make use of that person's name, picture or likeness in their charitable solicitations
- If they are calling on behalf of police, fire or law enforcement, they must either be an actual law enforcement employee or have written permission from the state, county or local first responder organization to make the call