Fire Inspector Imposter Making Visits to Downtown Panama City Businesses

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PANAMA CITY-- Panama City police are looking for a man who is impersonating a fire inspector. They said the suspect has been going to businesses on Harrison Avenue and posing as an official inspector.

It all started when several business owners complained to the Panama City Fire Department about one of their inspectors.

"We spoke with the fire inspector who did that initial fire inspection and it turned out that the fire inspector was some place else during the days he was complained about," said Panama City Fire Department Chief Alex Baird.

That's why owner Linda Smith of Willows Tea Room said she was suspicious. "We had an official fire inspection the day before and this young man came in he had this clipboard of some sorts, but no uniform and said he was doing an inspection in the adjacent building," said owner of Willows Tea Room Linda Smith.

Fire inspectors wear a uniform along with a badge that identifies them as the proper authority.

"If a person shows up in a uniform claiming to be a fire inspector and you have any doubt, we want you to ask him for his I.D.," said Panama City Fire Division Chief Jimmy Talley.

That's exactly what tipped off Smith that something was off.

"He didn't have a driving license, a personal I.D., it was just too suspicious," said Smith. After she asked for his I.D. he left.
The Panama City Fire Department is still looking into the case and said a similar scenario has happened to other businesses along Harrison Avenue.

"At this time we do not know what his intentions are, but also by him doing this it is against the law to impersonate law and fire," said Talley.

"I suspect he might of been looking around to see if he could gain entry after we had closed in the evening or something of that nature," said Smith.

Downtown business owners want others to be vigilant about any suspicious activity.

If you have any information regarding these incidents, Panama City Fire Department would like you to contact Crimestoppers at 785-TIPS.