OROVILLE, Calif. - Video of a man in a supermarket parking lot berating firefighters for buying groceries while on duty last week has racked up at least a million views on the Internet.
The video was shot through a car window by a shopper who asked not to be identified. He told News10 he began shooting because the man's body language suggested he might attack the firefighters.
It shows the man loudly complaining that three Butte County firefighters from Station 64 were shopping at a Food Maxx store four miles from the fire station when there's a neighborhood market right around the corner.
"I'm paying for them to be down here on the clock," the angry taxpayer says in comments suddenly directed to the man shooting the video.
"I can tell you right now I could probably get 90 percent of all the people here in Butte County to sign a thing stating this is totally ridiculous," he says as the firefighters continue loading bags of groceries into their fire truck.
The taxpayer, who initially believed the photographer was on his side, changes his attitude when he realizes the video is being shot in support of the firefighters.
"I'm not giving you permission to do anything with it and I will sue you personally," he threatens.
Anna Olson, a Facebook friend of the man who shot the video, posted it on YouTube after she said she saw the same man criticizing Oroville city firefighters in a Raley's store the same day.
Olson said she knew the video would become an Internet sensation. "It's one of those 'wow' moments," she said.
The overwhelming majority of online comments appear to recognize the common arrangement that requires firefighters working 24-hour shifts to stay close to their vehicles in case there's an emergency call.
Oroville police and Fire Chief Bill LaGrove said it's entirely appropriate for on-duty crews, who pay for their own groceries, to shop at Food Maxx rather than a neighborhood market.
"The Wagon Wheel market that was mentioned [in the video] is a fine market," LaGrove said. "But it's a butcher shop with specialty meats and is not designed for your full-service shopping."
An attempt to contact the angry taxpayer at his home was unsuccessful, and both fire departments said he had not lodged a formal complaint with them.
Butte County Fire Chief Greg McFadden, whose firefighters are the ones who appear in the video, said he was proud of them for their calm demeanor during the lambasting.
"I very much appreciate how they handled themselves," McFadden said.