FAIRFAX STATION, Va. (ABC7) — The Medical Examiner announced Friday that Nicole Mittendorff, the missing Fairfax County firefighter, died by suicide-hanging.
This news comes on the heels of concerns that she was a victim of bullying. On Saturday, Fire Chief Richard Bowers issued a statement regarding Nicole Mittendorff:
"I would like to take a minute to address the local web forum posts that so many of you have been discussing regarding Firefighter-Nicole Mittendorff. We at Fairfax Fire and Rescue are aware of the posts and are looking into the matter. I assure you that my department cannot and will not tolerate bullying of any kind. At this time, we are respecting the privacy of Firefighter-Paramedic Mittendorff's family, and providing support to the men and women of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department who are grieving under these challenging circumstances. We will thoroughly investigate this matter and take any appropriate actions needed. However, right now we ask that we be allowed to grieve the loss of one of our own."
Police found a suicide note in Mittendorff's car Thursday afternoon after discovering her body. The details of that suicide note remain unknown.
In the past several hours however, we have become aware of online message boards in which Mittendorff's name has been used in an extremely negative manner.
Some of the posts purported to have been written by members of the Fairfax County Fire Department, where she worked for three years.
We have been told the department is aware of this online activity, but today they focused solely on coping with this very recent tragedy.
Jeff Dill, the founder of the Firefighters Behavior Health Alliance, says many in the field suffer from strained marital and family relationships, and addition, but do not open up about serious problems.
Dill tracks firefighter and EMT suicides nationwide.
"It's something that's missing in the fire and EMS world. We don't talk about those things in fire academies and our officer classes," Dill says. "So if we can just keep on bringing the educational awareness that it's okay to ask for help."
Statement on the death of Firefighter/Paramedic Mittendorff from the International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services:
" The International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services is deeply saddened by the passing of our sister, Nicole Mittendorff. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and fellow firefighters in Fairfax County, Virginia during this difficult time. Nicole’s death adds to the rapidly climbing number of suicides in the fire service. Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance has reported 116 firefighters in the United States committed suicide in 2015. Behavioral health struggles in the fire service are often overlooked, but it affects every EMS and fire department in one form or another. We encourage every department to reach out to the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance or the National Volunteer Fire Council’s Share the Load program for resources to help reduce these tragic statistics. "