Former fire crew leader Michael Pooler

An Austin, Texas, firefighter has been fired after he made a pit stop at Burger King before responding to an emergency call from a 77-year-old woman in respiratory failure.

Michael Pooler’s snack attack postponed the Austin Fire Department’s emergency response by approximately two minutes and resulted in his termination by Fire Chief Jim Evans, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

In a memo, Evans said the fire crew leader had displayed “a shocking neglect of duty” when he stopped for a bite to eat before responding to the emergency call Jan. 4.

“Immediate response to 911 calls is the very essence of what it means to be an Austin firefighter,” the fire chief said. “Because of his selfish and highly unprofessional actions, he has no right to remain an Austin firefighter.”

Fortunately for the patient, paramedics were able to assist the woman and cancel the fire department response when they arrived on the scene before the hungry firefighter.

Pooler has served with the fire department for 12 years and plans to appeal the termination, though he has not hired an attorney.

The three-page memo said Pooler was at the fire station when the firefighters were dispatched to assist the elderly woman, but he took a few minutes to place an order at a fast food restaurant rather than immediately responding to the call. The three crew members waited on their leader, as department policy states four firefighters must be on each engine.

When someone is in respiratory distress, two minutes can make all the difference, Evans said. Though the paper does not reveal the woman’s present condition, the chief said patients can die or suffer from permanent brain injury while waiting for medical assistance.

Evans said Poolers actions reflected poor judgment and “erode and violate the public’s trust in the Austin Fire Department.”

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