Polk Fire captain under investigation for helping extinguish fire while off-duty

LAKELAND, Fla. — Instead of a pat on the back, Polk County is launching an investigation into a fire captain for helping extinguish a fire while off duty.

Jay Schwartz, who is also the president of IAFF Local 3531, Polk County’s fire union, was on scene during a major fire on April 4, 2018.

A Lakeland home on West Daughtery Road, was engulfed in flames.

More than a dozen people lived there and were scrambling, as witness video shows.

Schwartz can be seen in the video wearing a t-shirt and jeans and grabs a hose to help put out the fire.

In the video, other firefighters are watching as Schwartz douses the flames.

“Anybody who is in that field is not going to turn a blind eye,” says Diana Stewart, who saw the fire and decided to start recording. Stewart says anyone in the first response field of work would have done the same thing.

ABC Action News also spoke to one of the fire victims, who is now homeless because of the damage.

“Everything of ours gone,” Linda Humphrise said as she began to tear up.

The fire, which was deemed arson, left at least 12 people homeless and according to witnesses was an ordeal to put out.

Humphrise thanks the first responders, including Schwartz who is accused of working off-the-clock.

“Even though he wasn’t on duty at the time he had a heart and a mind to try it to help somebody who really needed it,” Humphrise said.

ABC Action News reached out to Polk County leaders, but they are not able to comment any further about the investigation. We also reached out to the Polk County fire union, IAFF Local 3531, but have not heard back.

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